Lieberman: Abbas quitting would be a blessing

PA calls foreign minister ‘barbaric’ and ‘thug’ in an exchange of barbs.

Foreign Minsiter Avigdor Lieberman 311 (R) (photo credit: REUTERS/Uriel Sinai)
Foreign Minsiter Avigdor Lieberman 311 (R)
(photo credit: REUTERS/Uriel Sinai)
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas would do Israel a favor by quitting because he has halted the peace process, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman told journalists in Jerusalem on Thursday.
“If there is a true stumbling block to peace, it is Abu Mazen,” said Lieberman in an off-camera briefing with reporters in the Foreign Ministry building.
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“When [Abbas] talks about quitting, it’s not a threat, it’s a blessing,” Lieberman said. “I can only hope that he leaves soon. Anyone who replaces him will be better than he is.”
He made his statement prior to Wednesday’s meeting in Jerusalem of mid-level Quartet envoys from the United States, the European Union, the United Nations and Russia to jump-start a new peace process scheduled to end in December 2012.
The envoys will meet separately with Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat, and then with Israeli envoy Yitzhak Molho.
Palestinians refuse to talk directly with Israel until it halts West Bank settlement construction and Jewish building in east Jerusalem. Israel has refused to cede to that demand and has called for talks without preconditions.
On Monday, peace seemed far away as Israelis and Palestinians traded barbs.
The PA said that Lieberman’s comments about Abbas were “barbaric.”
Abbas adviser Nimer Hammad said that Lieberman was “speaking with a jungle mentality” and was a “thug.”
Hammad also expressed “regret” that Israelis had voted for someone like Lieberman.
“The real obstacle to peace is not President Abbas or the Palestinian policy, but Israeli policies and Lieberman’s arrogant statements,” Hammad said.
Abbas’s Fatah faction also denounced Lieberman’s statements and warned that any harm caused to the PA president would “turn the region upside down.”
Fatah described the statements as “state terrorism practiced by the occupation government.”
Fatah spokesman Ahmed Assaf claimed that Lieberman’s statements were aimed at paving the road for targeting Abbas.
But Lieberman said that it was Abbas who was the problem. He has made “racist” statements, said Lieberman, stating that he won’t allow a single Jew to live in the newly-created Palestinian state.
There are many Western-trained Palestinians who could replace him and be a serious and sincere partner, Lieberman said.
He continued by saying that all Abbas cares about is his own private agenda of making it into the history books as someone who created a Palestinian state and unified Fatah and Hamas.
Lieberman claimed that Abbas is using the settlements as an excuse to not make peace with Israel and with the Netanyahu government, adding further that it is the only government that can bring about a two-state solution.
Agreements were signed with Egypt and Jordan, and Palestinians have negotiated with past Israeli governments, while settlement construction continued, said Lieberman.
He added that he would not agree to any construction freeze – neither in West Bank settlements or east Jerusalem.
There is an asymmetry to people’s perceptions on this matter, Lieberman said.
Imagine if Israel prohibited its Arab citizens from buying or renting property in the western part of the city, he said.
“It would immediately be accused of apartheid and racism,” he said.
But, he added, the international community considers a request to bar Jews from building in the eastern part of Jerusalem as legitimate.
“When we try to explain that Gilo [a Jewish east Jerusalem neighborhood] is only seven minutes from the Prime Minister’s Office, no one believes it,” he said.
“The fundamental question is not about the settlements. It is what happens when the Palestinians get independence,” he said. “Who will assure Israel that Kassam rockets won’t be launched from Kalkilya against Ra’anana and Kfar Saba and Herzliya. That is the central question for which I have not received any reassuring answers and I don’t think I will,” Lieberman said.
“If I see that it is possible to have an agreement, not one of ‘Peace Now’ but one that assures peace for generations, I am willing to pursue it. But right now I only see the opposite. I have no doubt that if the Palestinians will be given political and security responsibility over the West Bank, within a year you will see rockets launched from Judea and Samaria.”
Lieberman said he fully supported a two-state solution, and that this was the government’s position as well.
If there were a serious Palestinian partner, Lieberman said, then an agreement for a two-state solution possibly would have already been reached.
He warned that if the Palestinians succeed in their statehood bid at the United Nations he would support cutting off contact.
Lieberman said he expected Netanyahu’s government to make it to the end of its term in October 2013.
“I don’t know of anyone who is looking to leave the government,” Lieberman said.