Liberman rejects settlement freeze

Former FM says Israel would "emphatically oppose" any attempt to impose a settlement freeze in the West Bank.

Liberman 370 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
Liberman 370
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
Former and possibly future foreign minister Avigdor Liberman, who wields considerable clout inside Likud Beytenu, said Monday on the eve of US President Barack Obama’s trip that he and his faction would categorically oppose any settlement freeze.
His words come amid talk in recent weeks of a partial settlement freeze, perhaps on settlements outside the large settlement blocks and the security fence, as a way of luring the Palestinians back to the negotiating table.
Liberman will return to the Foreign Ministry if he is exonerated in a trial that is scheduled to end in July.
Referring to Israel’s 10-month settlement freeze in 2009-2010 that did not bring the Palestinians back to the talks, Liberman said that after that effort failed, he made up his mind to oppose any future freeze.
While saying that he was not opposed to good will gestures to the Palestinians, he stressed they needed to be reciprocal.
Speaking at a press conference to mark the swearing in of the new government on Monday, Liberman stated that “the Palestinian issue has not progressed in the past four years, and it will not progress in the next four years either. Anyone speaking about a solution to the Palestinian problems is either living, or prefers to live, in an illusion.”
“It is impossible to solve this conflict; it needs to be managed. The relationship with the Palestinians needs to be maintained,” he said.
Liberman said that “we are not an isolated island; everything is interconnected,” and added that in the tumultuous Middle East, it was a mistake now to think that it would be possible to “isolate one point and build Switzerland there.”
Asked what would constitute a successful Obama visit in his eyes, the Yisrael Beytenu chairman said the fact that the US president chose to visit Israel in the first trip of his second term was a success in and of itself.
Replying to a question about Turkey, Liberman, who was the leading voice in the outgoing government against acceding to Turkish demands that included a clear apology for the 2010 ‘Mavi Marmara’ incident, reiterated his position that Israel could opt for the type of apology that the US made to Pakistan for accidentally killing 24 Pakistani troops in air strikes in November 2011.
The language of that apology, which said “we are sorry for losses suffered,” has been rejected by the Turks in the past.
Liberman reiterated that good ties with Turkey were in the interest of both countries, and added that even with the tensions in relations, the economic ties between the countries had grown over the past four years.
The issue of Turkish-Israeli ties is likely to come up during Obama’s visit, as the US sees an improvement in the relationship as an important priority.
Jerusalem Post staff contributed to this report.