Last Updated: Tue Jan 10, 2012 11:05 am (KSA) 08:05 am (GMT)

Israel’s Lieberman says Palestinians focused on U.N., not peace talks

Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said that “Anyone talking about progress in talks with the Palestinians has no idea what he’s talking about.”. (Reuters)
Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said that “Anyone talking about progress in talks with the Palestinians has no idea what he’s talking about.”. (Reuters)

Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman dismissed newly rekindled diplomatic contacts with the Palestinians on Monday, accusing them of poor faith in peacemaking.

“The Palestinians have no interest in restarting peace talks with Israel and are just biding their time before returning to the U.N.,” Lieberman said.

“From their point of view, they have been dragged against their will into the negotiations in Jordan,” Lieberman told MPs at the parliamentary committee on foreign affairs and defense, according to AFP.

“It is their intention to carry on with talks in Jordan until Jan. 26, and immediately afterward to renew their offensive at the U.N. to achieve recognition,” the committee spokesman quoted him as saying of the Palestinian attempt to secure full state membership at the United Nations, which Israel fiercely opposes.

The diplomatic Quartet of the United States, United Nations, European Union and Russia has called on Israel and the Palestinians to present comprehensive proposals on borders and security before Jan. 26, with an eye to resuming direct talks shortly afterwards.

“Anyone talking about progress in talks with the Palestinians has no idea what he’s talking about,” Lieberman said.

Lieberman said that some Israeli Arabs should be stripped of their citizenship and placed under Palestinian sovereignty as part of any final peace deal, according to The Associated Press.

Speaking to reporters outside Parliament, Lieberman reiterated his stance that resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has to involve redrawing Israel’s borders to put some Arab communities under Palestinian sovereignty. In return, Israel would receive West Bank territory.

“Any future agreement with the Palestinians must address the matter of Israeli Arabs in the formula of territory and population exchanges,” Lieberman said. “Any other arrangement is simply collective suicide. This has to be clear and I think it is time to say these things out loud.”

Lieberman has pushed a series of legislative proposals that critics say are anti-Arab, including a failed attempt to require Israelis to sign a loyalty oath or have their citizenship revoked.

About one-fifth of Israel’s 7.8 million population is Arab. Israeli Arabs are citizens, in contrast with their Palestinian brethren in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. But they often suffer discrimination in Israel and frequently identify with the Palestinian cause.

Arabs accuse Lieberman of racism.

The Islamist Hamas movement which has controlled the Gaza Strip since ousting president Mahmud Abbas’ forces in 2007 and had been inching towards reconciliation deal with the Palestinian leadership, blasted the latest talks.

“The Palestinian Authority’s insistence on talks with the enemy, despite a national consensus on rejecting them, would be the greatest danger to the Palestinian cause and a serious blow to reconciliation efforts,” Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhum said in a statement.

Accusing the authority of “bowing down to the United States and Israel,” Hamas urged other Palestinian factions to “reject these negotiations and make sure they fail.”

Talks between the Israelis and Palestinians broke down in September 2010 when an Israeli freeze on new West Bank settlement construction expired and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declined to renew it.

The Palestinians say they will not negotiate while Israel builds settlements and without a clear framework for negotiations. Israel says it wants talks without preconditions.

Palestinian negotiator Nabil Shaath said his side’s policy was unchanged.

“All these moves are a preventative tactic in order to keep the ball in the Israeli court,” he told Voice of Palestine radio on Monday.

“The Palestinian stance has not changed in terms of not returning to negotiations unless Israel halts settlement activities.”

Netanyahu’s rightwing coalition government leans heavily on settlers and their supporters, which Shaath said meant there was little chance of a breakthrough in talks under the present conditions.

“One cannot pin hopes for a new launch of negotiations under the current Israeli government” which was “dominated” by settler representatives, he said.

“All sides in the Quartet and our brothers in Jordan see a complete seriousness from the Palestinian side, and an Israeli attempt to turn these negotiations into a waste of time, with an intensified campaign of settlement-building,” said Yasser Abd Rabbo, senior adviser to Abbas, according to Reuters.

In Amman, a regional diplomatic source described the second round of talks, held behind closed doors, as a chance to assess longer-term prospects.

“This is even more important” than the introductory meeting, the source said. “We have to see the follow-up, and what comes now.”

Speaking to Reuters in the West Bank city of Ramallah, Abd Rabbo said: “We will turn to the international community, and the U.N. Security Council in any event, not only to condemn settlement construction but to demand direct international intervention to protect the two-state solution.”

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