Netanyahu vows Israeli-Palestinian peace as ally Lieberman sows doubt
The Israeli prime minister met with US envoy George Mitchell today to shore up an Israeli-Palestinian peace process undermined by his foreign minister yesterday.
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Defense Minister Ehud Barak responded by saying Lieberman doesn't speak for the government. Minority Affairs Minister Avishay Braverman from Mr. Barak's Labor Party called on Netanyahu to fire the foreign minister, telling the Jerusalem Post that "Lieberman's delusional speech was well-planned and was intended to heat up the atmosphere and harm the peace process. This adds to a long list of incidents in which Lieberman tried to undermine the prime minister."Skip to next paragraph
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Netanyahu himself put some distance between himself and Lieberman, while not fully repudiating his views. "Lieberman's address was not coordinated with the prime minister," Netanyahu's office said in a statement "The various issues surrounding a peace agreement will be discussed and decided only at the negotiating table, and nowhere else."
Lieberman's position nothing new
Mr. Lieberman's comments are only surprising because of the venue and timing.
His party platform calls for a simiiar swap to remove most of the Palestinian population from the Jewish state, and it's a position he has touted since at least 2004. He has also mooted stripping Israeli Arabs of their citizenship if they don't take a loyalty oath, and described Arab-Israeli members of parliament who met with Hamas officials as "terror collaborators."
Netanyahu put on a brave face ahead of his meeting with Mr. Mitchell today, saying he looked forward to ongoing talks with Mr. Abbas. "The only way that it is certain we won't achieve peace is if we don't try to achieve peace. I am committed to peace and my government is committed to peace," he said.
Nevertheless, Lieberman's comments reverberated in an atmosphere where distrust is often the easiest course for both sides.
Lieberman reinforces Palestinian distrust
Many Palestinians believe that ongoing settlement construction is part of a plan to claim a larger swath of territory for Israel in any eventual peace deal, and see Lieberman's powerful position in the government as evidence that negotiations won't lead to an agreement any time soon on the borders of two states and the return of roughly 1 million refugees living abroad.
"He provided a very, very clear reason for all our skepticism,” Palestinian negotiator Nabil Shaath told Bloomberg News. Lieberman "reflects a segment of the Israeli society which wants to get rid of all Christian and Muslim Israeli Palestinians. This is why we are afraid of the settlement policy."