FM: Outpost deal is 'utter nonsense'

Lieberman rejects reports Israel will offer US to remove outposts, allow 'natural growth' in W. Bank.

maoz esther outpost 248 88 ap (photo credit: )
maoz esther outpost 248 88 ap
(photo credit: )
The formula reportedly proposed by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to US President Barack Obama's administration, according to which Israel would evacuate illegal outposts and in return enable natural growth in existing settlements is "utter nonsense," Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said on Tuesday morning, stressing the importance of formulating a comprehensive stance on the regional issues at hand before dealing with the "minutiae" of outpost evacuations. Speaking to Army Radio, the foreign minister reiterated the need for a clear Israeli stance and called upon the current government to ratify the road map. "What Israel needs is a comprehensive attitude," Lieberman said. "I have said many times that we should accept the road map and not the Annapolis accord." Late Monday night Minister of Intelligence Agencies Dan Meridor set out for the United Kingdom in what is reportedly part of a government effort to secure American backing for settlement expansion in return for the dismantling of illegal outposts. Meridor, accompanied by advisers, will meet with US officials in London to try and convince them that natural growth needs warranted continued construction around larger settlement blocs. Earlier on Monday, Netanyahu indicated that he was moving toward Obama's linkage of West Bank construction to the Iranian threat, when he told the Likud faction that removing unauthorized outposts was necessary to persuade America to stop Iran. During their meeting in Washington last week, Netanyahu told Obama that removing the Iranian threat was necessary to reach peace with the Palestinians. Obama countered that progress in solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict "strengthens the hand of the international community in dealing with the potential Iranian threat." While Obama asked Netanyahu to "stop building in the settlements," Netanyahu still wants to accommodate natural growth in Judea and Samaria. But he indicated to Likud MKs in the closed-door meeting that he would remove outposts in an attempt to satisfy the Obama administration at a time when he wants America to take action against Iran. "We are not in regular times," Netanyahu said. "The danger is approaching, and the most dangerous thing for a live organism is to not recognize the danger on the way. "My job is to ensure Israel's future, and that comes before anything else. Our relations with the US are important. We need to put our real national needs at the top of our priorities." Netanyahu warned that "the Iranian clock is ticking," and therefore Israel must strive to draft the US and the international community to prevent Iran's nuclearization. His associates said after the meeting that his message was: "Outposts are important, but there is one thing that is more important." The prime minister's comments came at the end of a stormy meeting in which ministers, MKs and mayors of West Bank communities attacked Defense Minister Ehud Barak for his plans to remove outposts. Netanyahu defended Barak and asked his critics to direct their anger toward him instead. "I am working together closely with the defense minister," Netanyahu said. "He has no independent policy. During the campaign, I said we were a law-abiding country, and we will handle the outposts. If we can, we will deal with them via dialogue." In a major step for the leader of a Center-Left party, Barak defended Netanyahu's decision to allow settlement construction for natural growth. His associates said he would continue Netanyahu's efforts to explain the matter to American officials on his forthcoming visit to Washington. But regarding 22 outposts that Barak said were illegal, he told the Labor faction that he would not show tolerance. "A country that wants to live cannot accept this phenomenon of illegal outposts," Barak said. "We'll try to deal with them with dialogue, but if we cannot reach results with dialogue, we will have to act unilaterally, using a proper amount of strength." Both Netanyahu and Barak came under fire from their opponents inside their factions for their policy changes. Labor MK Yuli Tamir said Barak's acceptance of natural growth in West Bank settlements made him "inseparable from the extreme Right," while Likud minister Yuli Edelstein told Netanyahu that he felt uncomfortable showing his face in his synagogue in the Gush Etzion community of Neveh Daniel, because of his government's policies on outposts. Likud MK Danny Danon rejected Netanyahu's change of heart on linking Judea and Samaria to Iran. "The Iranian threat cannot be an excuse to harm the communities in Judea and Samaria," Danon said. "We cannot let the disengagement repeat itself. I will make sure that the majority of the faction that opposes withdrawals sticks to their ideology." In the midst of a scathing speech attacking Netanyahu, opposition leader Tzipi Livni unwittingly agreed with the prime minister that the outposts needed to be sacrificed at a time when there was pressure to remove settlements. "Turning a blind eye to the outposts harms our ability to maintain what is truly important, which includes the settlement blocs," Livni said. "Our role is to maintain the majority of Israelis who live in Judea and Samaria in the blocs, and this was only possible when the world understood that we were just responding to the reality of what has happened over the past 40 years and not trying to take more land and prevent a future peace deal." But Kadima MK Otniel Schneller tried to persuade Livni to go a step further and endorse building in Judea and Samaria for natural growth. In an impassioned plea, he compared Obama's opposition to natural growth to the 1939 White Paper, in which the British under Neville Chamberlain set a quota on the number of Jews who could move to the British mandate in Palestine. "The American request to freeze natural growth in Judea and Samaria is unethical and is a reminder of past restrictions against the Jewish people," Schneller said. "It is even worse than the White Paper, which did not recognize our right to a national homeland, but at least allowed us our natural right to have children. "I will not lend a hand to a dictate preventing my daughters from giving birth to my grandchildren, and I will not cooperate with an effort to trample human rights, as the Americans are in essence trying to do."