Lieberman: 'We will not be victims of appeasement'

FM tells French and Spanish FMs to solve European problems before coming to solve Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

moratinos lieberman kouchner 311 (photo credit: GPO)
moratinos lieberman kouchner 311
(photo credit: GPO)
Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, fresh off what was widely viewed as his “undiplomatic” address to the UN General Assembly last month, told his visiting Spanish and French counterparts on Sunday that before coming to solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, they should concentrate on the problems in their own backyard.
“I don’t expect you to solve the problems of the world, but I certainly expect that before you come here to teach us how to solve conflicts, you will deal with the problems in Europe and solve those conflicts,” Lieberman told French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner and Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Moratinos, who arrived on Sunday for a day of talks in Israel, followed by a day of talks in the Palestinian Authority.
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Lieberman said that after solving the conflicts in the Caucasus and Cyprus, and after making peace between Serbia and Kosovo, then the Europeans can come here and “we will listen to your advice.”
“In 1938, the European community decided to appease Hitler instead of supporting Czechoslovakia and sacrificed them [sic] without gaining anything,” Lieberman said.
“We will not be Czechoslovakia of 2010. We will ensure the security of Israel.”
Lieberman said it seemed as if the international community was trying to make up for all its failures in solving conflicts around the world by forging an agreement between Israel and the Palestinians in one year.
“What about the struggle in Somalia, North Korea, Zimbabwe, Afghanistan and Sudan?” he asked. “Instead of talking now with the Arab League about the future of a referendum in Sudan, or discussing the explosive situation in Iraq in 2012, the international community is applying great pressure on Israel.”
Lieberman said that while the international community was talking about bringing about calm in the region, it would likely cause the exact opposite and “bring about an explosion like what happened after Camp David in 2000.”
Earlier in the day, Moratinos and Kouchner met with President Shimon Peres, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Ehud Barak and opposition leader Tzipi Livni, and heard less strident messages.
Nevertheless, in those meetings as well, the two foreign ministers were told that just as the international community played a role in getting the PA to enter direct talks with Israel last month, it must convince it of the need to show flexibility on the settlement moratorium issue now.
Even before the duo’s arrival, Israeli officials relayed Jerusalem’s displeasure to Paris and Madrid at their recent decisions to upgrade the status of the Palestinian delegations in each capital to “mission” status.
The French took that step in July, following an upgrade of the PLO presence in Washington to “delegation general,” and Spain took a similar move in September.
Israel’s message to the French and the Spanish was that this was not the right time to give the Palestinians a “free prize,” and that it sent the wrong message at a time when the PA was not showing any flexibility.
It was not immediately clear whether this came up in the meetings on Sunday.
Barak, in a much more conciliatory statement than Lieberman’s, said before his meeting with the two Europeans that although he knew there would be disagreements with them regarding the settlement moratorium issue, “they both take a lot of time working towards a real European contribution to peace between Israel and the Palestinians.
“I know that they are both friends of Israel, and they are respected by the Palestinians and throughout the Arab world. Therefore, they can really help,” the defense minister said.
Diplomatic officials said the primary purpose of the visit was for the two to raise European involvement in the current diplomatic process, at a time when the EU’s role has proven very minimal. French President Nicolas Sarkozy has invited Netanyahu, as well as PA President Mahmoud Abbas, to Paris later this month for talks. Although Netanyahu has accepted the invitation, no date has yet been set.
At the beginning of his meeting with Peres, Kouchner said that he was “optimistic” about the current diplomatic prospects.
“We’re optimistic. It takes time, it always takes time in this region, but this is a delicate moment where we can make an effort and make progress in direct talks and in peace.”
Moratinos added that “both sides sent a clear and strong message to the international community that they want to keep up the momentum, keep an open door to direct talks, and they are ready to move on to significant matters.”
“We can not give up on peace,” Peres said. “It is clear to all sides that the alternative is worse and dangerous.”
Palestinian paper Al-Ayyam, meanwhile, on Sunday quoted Kouchner as saying in a written interview that he could not rule out the UN Security Council creating a Palestinian state.
Kouchner reportedly told the paper that France preferred a twostate solution negotiated between the PA and Israel but that a UN-brokered resolution to the decades-long conflict remained a possibility.
“The international community cannot be satisfied with a prolonged deadlock. I therefore believe that one cannot rule out in principle the Security Council option,” he was quoted as saying.
Abbas mentioned on Friday in Libya the possibility of turning to the UN Security Council for recognition if talks fail, an idea Israeli officials dismissed as “unrealistic” and a “mirage.”
In a related development, the Shas spokesman issued an unequivocal denial to a Channel 10 report Sunday that the party’s Construction and Housing Minister Ariel Attias recently told the security cabinet that Rabbi Ovadia Yosef would approve a another 60-day settlement construction moratorium if the US promises that it would be the last.
The Shas spokesman, however, issued a statement saying that Yosef told Shas chairman Eli Yishai that the party will oppose any moratorium extension, even for only two months, and will instruct the Shas ministers to vote accordingly.