Lieberman backs away from land swap proposal

FM says his controversial proposed plan for exchanges of land as part of peace deal is his own personal view, not official government position.

Lieberman 311 AP (photo credit: AP)
Lieberman 311 AP
(photo credit: AP)
PRAGUE  — Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman on Monday said that his call to redraw the country's borders to exclude some Arab citizens in a future peace deal with the Palestinians is his personal view and does not represent government policy.
On Sunday, Lieberman had proposed trading sections of Israel where its Arab citizens live for West Bank settlements as part of any peace deal.
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The controversial comments were rejected by the Palestinians.
The proposal would leave many of Israel's one million Arab citizens under Palestinian control.
Lieberman told reporters after meeting Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg that the proposal was "my personal view, it's not the official position of our government."
Nevertheless, Lieberman said, Israel should change its approach to the Palestinians because he said despite all goodwill gestures from Israel "still there's a deadlock."
He repeated Monday that the basic guiding principle for peace talks "must be not land for peace but an exchange of territory and population to create two national states."
Trading land for peace has been the foundation on which years of peace talks with the Palestinians have been based.
Lieberman's visit follows the resumption earlier this month of direct talks with the Palestinians after nearly two years.
His talks with Czech leaders were expected to focus on Czech and EU foreign policies and the Middle East peace talks.
The Czech Republic is one of Israel's strongest allies in the European Union. The Czech government pushed for closer ties between the EU and Israel when it held the 27-nation bloc's rotating presidency last year.
Schwarzenberg voiced his support for Israel Monday.
"The Czech Republic was, is and will be an ally of Israel in international politics and Europe," Schwarzenberg said. "This is one of the key features of Czech foreign policy."