Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Between Israel’s PM and FM: Who’s Israeli Chief Representative?! Lieberman's Speech at UN Outrages Palestinians, US, and Israeli Ministers

28/09/2010 A “war of words” erupted on Tuesday between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman after the latter told the UN General Assembly that the peace with Palestinians could take decades to cement and outlined controversial proposals for an Israeli-Palestinian agreement.

Netanyahu responded sharply to an earlier United Nations address by Lieberman, saying that he, and not the FM, was Israel's chief representative to the ongoing direct peace talks with the Palestinian Authority.

The Israeli PM said that Lieberman’s UN speech did not reflect the official Israeli position. "The content of the foreign minister's speech to the United Nations was not coordinated with the prime minister," read a tersely worded statement from Netanyahu's office. "Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is the one who handles the diplomatic negotiations. The various arrangements for peace will be determined only around the negotiating table and nowhere else."

Earlier Tuesday, Lieberman presented the UN General Assembly with his draft for a population and territory swap, as part of an eventual peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians.

Under Lieberman's controversial scheme, part of Israel's Arab population would be moved to a newly created Palestinians state, in return for evacuation of Israeli settlements in the West Bank. "A final agreement between Israel and the Palestinians has to be based on a program of exchange of territory and populations," Lieberman told the UNGA in New York.

The Israeli foreign minister stressed that his proposals did not represent a scheme for "populations transfer", a phrase that evokes historical proposals by Israel's extreme right to evict Palestinians from the West Bank and Gaza altogether. "We are not talking about population transfer but about defining borders so as best to reflect the demographic reality," he claimed.

According to Israeli daily Haaretz, this is not the first time that Lieberman, whose ultra-nationalist Yisrael Beiteinu party is the second-largest in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's right-wing coalition, has put forward the controversial proposals. “But his decision to place them before the General Assembly in his role as foreign minister will raise speculation over whether they are his private plan, or the official policy of the Israeli government and Netanyahu is likely to face international calls for clarification,” Haaretz said.

Meanwhile, Lieberman said in his speech that Israel and the Palestinians should focus on coming up with a long-term intermediate agreement, something that could take a few decades. "We are ready for a fair solution and we are ready to cooperate with the international community. However, we are not ready to compromise our national security or the vital interests of the State of Israel," Lieberman said in his speech.

According to the foreign minister, reaching a comprehensive peace agreement in the coming years is unrealistic. He said a long-term intermediate agreement would allow the Palestinians economic growth and freedom of movement while giving both sides ample time to "raise an entire new generation that will have mutual trust and will not be influenced by incitement and extremist messages."

Addressing the Iranian issue, Lieberman said that Iran is at the heart of the Middle East conflict, adding that Iran, through its links with what he called militant groups, could "foil" any peace accord with the Palestinians, or with Lebanon. "In truth, the connection between Iran and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is precisely reversed. Iran can exist without Hamas, Islamic Jihad and Hezbollah, but the terrorist organizations cannot exist without Iran," he claimed. "Relying on these proxies, Iran can at any given time foil any agreement between Israel and the Palestinians or with Lebanon. Thus, in searching for a durable agreement with the Palestinians, one which will deal with the true roots of the conflict and which will endure for many years, one must understand that first, the Iranian issue must be resolved. One must deal first with the root of the problem and not its symptoms," he went on to say.

Lieberman's Speech at UN Outrages Palestinians, US, and Israeli Ministers

29/09/2010 Israeli Foreign Minister on Tuesday outraged both Palestinians and Jews by his speech at a UN meeting. Palestinian mission walk out of the meeting after Avigdor Lieberman said it could take decades for the two sides to reach a deal.

Speaking at the United Nations General Assembly in New York, Lieberman said "a long-term intermediate agreement…could take a few decades," Israeli website Ynetnews reported. Two Palestinian delegates reacted to the comments by storming out of the session.

Following the walk out, Arab League Chief Amr Mousa said that the Palestinian Authority had the right to quit talks with Israel. He said on Tuesday that it would be a "waste of time" to remain at the negotiation table at the same time that Israel has resumed constructing illegal Jewish settlements on Palestinian land

During the meeting at the UN, Lieberman also said that some Arab citizens of Israel should be incorporated into a Palestinian state, proposing also "an exchange of populated territory" as part of a Mideast peace deal. He suggested ceding parts of Israel with large Arab populations to a future Palestinian state in exchange for Israel keeping large settlement blocs in the West Bank, a proposal which has been part of his party's platform.

Such statements would deeply embarrass Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu since it ran counter to any deal between the Palestinians and the Israelis, who resumed ''Peace" talks in September, especially after Israel declined to renew a partial freeze on its construction of illegal settler units in the occupied Palestinian territories.

Netanyahu's office swiftly responded to Lieberman's declaration: "Prime Minister Netanyahu is the one managing negotiations in the name of the State of Israel. The issues of a possible peace deal would be discussed around the negotiations table, and nowhere else."

Lieberman declarations also outraged many US and Israelis Jews. Several American Jewish leaders were fumed by Lieberman speech demanding his resignation.

"If Lieberman can't keep his personal opinions to himself, he ought to resign from the cabinet," said Seymour Reich, a former president of the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations.

"Every time Foreign Minister Lieberman voices his skepticism about achieving peace, he undermines Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's credibility," agreed another New York Jewish leader. "Lieberman gives Abu Mazen [PA President Mahmoud Abbas] and the Arab League an opportunity to reinforce their claim that Netanyahu isn't serious."

For his part, Israeli "Defense" Minister Ehud Barack said Tuesday night that Lieberman's comments do not reflect the Israeli government's stance and certainly not the Labor party's attitude. It's essential to make peace with the Palestinians and not to play into the hands of Israel's enemies, Barak said.

Lieberman responded to Barack stating that as long as there is no breakthrough in negotiations with the Palestinians, nothing prevents him from giving his opinion. Lieberman's comments came in an interview with Israel Radio on Wednesday.

Lieberman said that Barak stated last week that Jerusalem should be divided in a potential peace agreement with the Palestinians, adding that he heard no one protest the fact that the defense minister's views did not echo those of the government.

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