Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said on Tuesday that Western-backed peace efforts with the Palestinians had reached a “dead end” and that Israel intended to present new ideas for diplomacy, prompting a response from the State Department re-emphasizing the American goal of establishing two states.
“There is definitely a regression here and we must understand and admit that we are at a dead end,” Lieberman told members of Yisrael Beiteinu during a party meeting. “We definitely intend to present new ideas.” The Yisrael Beiteinu chairman also said that he planned to remain foreign minister for at least “four and a half years,” and vowed that his faction would stay a central component of the current government coalition until the next round of elections.
The State Department did not react directly to Lieberman’s statements, preferring instead to reiterate Washington’s commitment to a two-state solution.
“We are going to hear comments from various parties about how they assess things,” State Department spokesperson Robert Wood said. “The important objective for us is to get this process back on track so that we can get to this two-state solution that we think is in the best interests of not only the Israelis and the Palestinians, but the United States and the rest of the world.”
Lieberman’s comments came a day after U.S. President Barack Obama, on his first long presidential visit abroad, said that he believed peace in the Middle East as long as Israelis and Palestinians each make compromises.
“I think we have a sense of what those compromises should be and will be. Now what we need is political will and courage on the part of leadership,” Obama told a students meeting in Istanbul at the end of a two-day visit to Turkey.
In response to these remarks, Lieberman said Tuesday that external bodies must cease pressuring Israel with regard to the peace process.
“[Israel] has never gotten involved in the business of other, and I expected the same, that nobody will stand there with a stopwatch in hand,” Lieberman told members of his party.
“They must let us develop a serious and responsible plan. People have begun working with vigor on developing new ideas,” he said. We are working together with the prime minister, and we have no underhanded intentions to build an agenda of our own. We must work together, because these are big challenges.”
At the handover ceremony at the Foreign Ministry last week, Lieberman sounded an aggressive foreign policy stance, emphasizing that the new government is not bound by the Annapolis process, under which former prime minister Ehud Olmert and former foreign minister Tzipi Livni conducted negotiations with the Palestinian Authority on the core issues of a final-status arrangement.
Lieberman later told Haaretz that he was “committed to the road map” as approved by the cabinet, despite having opposed it during the 2003 vote.
“Israel undertook obligations regarding the road map and it will honor them, but there must be reciprocity,” he told Haaretz in an interview earlier this week.
“Unlike others, we will carry out everything that is in writing, and there will be no contradiction between what we say and what we mean, but we will stick to the phased nature of the road map,” he said.
“We will conduct talks with the PA, but we want to make sure their ‘checks’ don’t bounce. The Palestinians must first of all confront terror, take control of Gaza and demilitarize Hamas. Without these, it will be difficult to move forward.”
Meanwhile, Police questioned Lieberman on Tuesday morning for approximately five hours as part of a corruption probe against him for the third time since he took office as foreign minister.
Police believe the Yisrael Beiteinu leader will need to be questioned once more before fraud squad detectives can complete their work and hand over material from the investigation to the State Prosecutor’s Office.