FM: Abbas regime illegitimate, PM making false expectations

Lieberman admits coalition can’t "reach common model" for peace; PM: Only I speak for the government.

netanyahu stinkeye 311 (photo credit: Haim Tzach)
netanyahu stinkeye 311
(photo credit: Haim Tzach)
There is no chance of reaching a comprehensive peace agreement in the current diplomatic and political reality, partly because the Palestinian Authority government is “illegitimate,” and it is time to take “Plan B” – a long-term interim agreement with the Palestinians – “off the shelf” and represent it as Israel’s diplomatic program, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said Sunday.
Not only is it impossible, given the current diplomatic and political situation, to reach a comprehensive agreement, but it should not even be tried now, since the current Palestinian Authority government has no legitimacy, Lieberman said.
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“We have to understand that there is a government there that it is not legitimate,” Lieberman said at an annual gathering in Jerusalem of Israel’s ambassadors and consul-generals.
“It pushed off elections three times, then lost the elections, doesn’t intend on holding elections and there is no guarantee that the next time there are elections, Hamas will not be elected.”
Lieberman said it would be folly to sign an agreement with a partner who did not have legitimacy, and who was someone whose authority remained unclear.
“The biggest tension there [among the Palestinians] is not between Hamas and Fatah, but between Fatah and [PA Prime Minister] Salam Fayyad,” Lieberman said.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, currently engaged with the US administration in getting the negotiations with the Palestinians back on track, quickly issued a statement distancing himself from his foreign minister’s comments.
Lieberman’s comments “represent his personal assessments and positions, just as other ministers in the government have different positions from each other. The position of the government of Israel is solely the one articulated by the prime minister and the one expressed through cabinet decisions,” the statement read.
Lieberman, in his speech, acknowledged that given the nature of the current coalition, it was nearly impossible for Israel to present a far-reaching diplomatic program agreed upon by all elements of the government.
“Can Israel put out a clear plan?” Lieberman asked. “That is also a good question in the [current] political reality. With the current system of government and coalition contradictions, I don’t think you can reach a common model, a common denominator, between [Interior Minister] Eli Yishai and [Defense Minister] Ehud Barak, between Avigdor Lieberman and [Intelligence Agencies Minister] Dan Meridor.”
Lieberman said he told Netanyahu the only way a diplomatic plan could be presented were if Netanyahu drew one up that spelled out all of Israel’s “red lines,” and then took it to the people in the form of a referendum.
Lieberman, in a barely veiled reference to Netanyahu’s claim that it was possible to reach a framework agreement with the Palestinians within a year, said it was a mistake to create expectations that a comprehensive agreement within one or two years was possible.
“I don’t think we can reach a comprehensive agreement that solves all questions of security, territory and end of conflict,” he said. “I think this is impossible under the present conditions, and we need to go for a long-term interim agreement that will allow us to cooperate with the Palestinians on two important levels: security and economics.” He said core issues such as borders, security arrangements, Jerusalem and refugees should be pushed off to a later date.
According to the foreign minister, the security cooperation between Israel and the PA has proven itself. He also said one way to eventually bring the conflict to a resolution would be to significantly reduce the economic gaps between Israel and the PA.
Currently, he said, the per capita GNP in Israel was some $28,000, while in the PA it was some $13,000. “If we could get the Palestinian GNP to $20,000, there will be no need for a plan, because things will work out by themselves,” he said.
Lieberman said he did not believe that the Palestinians were interested in a diplomatic process or an agreement because they have concluded – thanks to the recognition of statehood they are already getting, as well as robust financial aid – that they can “get more” without negotiations than they could with them.
“Even if we would offer Tel Aviv as the capital of a Palestinian state and return to the 1947 lines, they would find a reason not to sign on any agreement,” Lieberman said.
The foreign minister added that his conclusion was that it was necessary to go to a long term interim agreement and that such a plan already existed “on the shelf” and just needed to be polished before being presented.
Lieberman’s comments elicited sharp reactions both from the Labor Party, his coalition partner, as well as from Kadima.
“The government of Israel, headed by Netanyahu, has committed itself to the vision of two states for two peoples,” a statement from Labor read. “The Labor Party believes the time has come to ratify the prime minister’s Bar-Ilan speech as government policy and urgently act according to it. Only progress in the peace process will foil attempts to delegitimize Israel in the international community.” The statement said that it was “unfortunate” that Lieberman, with his “irresponsible” comments, was trying to “torpedo any progress in the diplomatic process.”
Kadima head Tzipi Livni, meanwhile, issued a statement saying that “Netanyahu and his ministers are causing strategic damage to Israel. Netanyahu, in his weakness, is allowing his ministers to damage our national interests and turn the coalition of paralysis and hysteria into the face of Israel.”