Foreign minister lowers expectations, says construction will restart.
By JPOST.COM STAFFIsrael and the Palestinians are unlikely to reach an agreement within a year, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said on Wednesday.Speaking to Israel Radio, the foreign minister said that the Palestinians are making too many demands and that the Americans are forcing them to attend talks. Lieberman sought to lessen expectations, saying of the opening of new negotiations that, "It will be just another event like all such festive occasions."RELATED:Yesha urges PM to make call on freeze'Direct talks are in our interests'Haniyeh: Direct negotiations will lead to failureClinton announces direct talks to resume on Sept. 2Lieberman claimed that the Palestinians are only attending the talks because they are being forced to.by the Americans. His comments came after Israel Radio reported sources within the Palestinian Authority as saying that the Obama administration threatened to withdraw funding to the Authority, and to block other international funds, should Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas not agree to the renewal of direct negotiations.According to Lieberman, Israel will not agree to US requests for a new freeze on settlement construction. Lieberman said that, after the end of the current freeze on September 26, building would restart in the settlement blocs and "natural growth" would be allowed elsewhere. There are settlements where each year a new classroom is needed, said Lieberman, including those which were established under Labor governments."Will we punish those who came as part of the Zionist enterprise?" he asked.When asked what Defense Misister Ehud Barak thought of new building in the West Bank, Lieberman answered that the former had agreed "as I heard him say." The foreign minister added that negotiations with the Palestinians would not unsettle the coalition. Kadima does not need to join the government, said Lieberman, nor does Shas need to leave.Speaking for Kadima, opposition leader Tzipi Livni on Tuesday made comments regarding Israel's participation in direct talks with the Palestinians at the Inter-Disciplinary Center in Herzliya where she gave a talk at a conference regarding the "delegitimization of Israel" in the international sphere."Direct talks are especially important and I hope that the prime minister will proceed into them with an understanding that they are not just a favor done for the Palestinians or the US, but in our [Israel's] interests," Livni said.She added, "The prime minister's success [in the direct talks] is a success for all of us, and if he succeeds [in the talks], we won't attack him for making a move in the right direction."Herb Keinon contributed to this article.
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