FM: Ball now in Palestinians' court

FM couldnt care less

Israel "couldn't care less" about the Palestinian leadership's reaction to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's settlement freeze offer, said Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman on Thursday morning. During an Israel Radio interview, Lieberman stated that far more important were the reactions of the settlers and what he termed "Israel's friends around the world," chiefly those who had spoken up against the Goldstone Commission's Report. Although Israel has made more gestures in the last ten months than all previous governments, the Palestinians reacted by "cursing and quarreling," said Lieberman, adding that the ball was now "in their court." Lieberman's comments came a day after Netanyahu announced a ten-month halt to settlement construction. The foreign minister stressed that in practice, settlement construction in the West Bank had already been halted ten months previously. The Palestinians rejected the freeze because it did not include east Jerusalem, and have refused to resume peace talks while construction continues. "What we could have contributed, we did," Lieberman said. "The Palestinians will make their considerations based on internal deliberations that don't need to concern us." Also speaking in support of the prime minister on Thursday, Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon said that the 10-month moratorium will prove that the settlements have never been an obstacle to peace. "This policy of restraint will prove once and for all that settlements have never been, nor will they ever be obstacles to peace," said Ayalon. He added, "This is only a limited window of opportunity. It will be sufficient to demonstrate whether the Palestinians are serious about peace or just serial excuse givers. The gazes of the international community will now turn to the Palestinians and to the Arab world, something that the Palestinians in particular have fought hard to prevent for the last eight months." AP contributed to this report