'Neither Abass nor his demand are legit'

Lieberman responds to wish to switch Livni with him; downplays Solana's call to recognize Palestinian state.

"Abu Mazen [Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas] isn't exactly legitimate, hence neither is his new demand, or suggestion, to replace Lieberman with Tzipi Livni. I see such advice as a blessing. His demand to cease settlement construction is nothing more than an expression of his distress and incompetence," said Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman on Monday. Speaking on Israel Radio, Lieberman was referring to Abbas's statement Sunday that, if he were prime minister of Israel, he would have appointed Kadima leader Tzipi Livni as foreign minister and not Lieberman. Abbas also recently claimed in an interview with an Egyptian weekly that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu had backed himself into a corner regarding the Palestinians, and that if he tried to emerge from it, he would face fierce opposition from Lieberman. The lower Abu Mazen's legitimacy drops, the harsher his demands become, Liebmerman added. "We signed an agreement with the Palestinian Authority, which represents all the Palestinians. Today we have 'Fatah-land' in the West Bank and 'Hamas-stan' in Gaza. Who exactly does Abu Mazen represent? At best, half of the nation," he said. Lieberman also downplayed the significance of EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana's call on Saturday for the United Nations Security Council to push forward and recognize a Palestinian state even without a final-status agreement between Israel and the Palestinians, dismissing it as not reflecting the European Union but rather the sentiment of a man who wants to be remembered before he retires. "The precedents [of peace deals] in this area were not imposed [by external bodies], rather reached through direct talks between the sides," the foreign minister said on Israel Radio, citing Jordan and Egypt as successful peace partners with which Israel conducted direct talks. "Peace cannot be forced, peace must be built," Lieberman added, noting that US President Barack Obama expressed a similar sentiment.