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Lieberman on Tuesday Photo: Gil Yohanan
Lieberman on Tuesday Photo: Gil Yohanan
 
Obama in Istanbul Photo: AFP
Obama in Istanbul Photo: AFP
 
 

US hits back at Lieberman: The goal is two states

In response to divisive comments made by new foreign minister, State Department makes clear Washington fully behind two-state solution as only viable option. Opposition at home also seizes on chance to accuse FM of destroying US-Israel diplomatic ties

Yitzhak Benhorin
Published: 04.08.09, 00:54 / Israel News

The US State Department hit back at Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman's warning on Tuesday to those pressuring Israel on its foreign policy agenda.

 

The Yisrael Beitenu chairman and recent appointment to the top ministerial position also said that the world was willing to listen to his ideas, accusing the Israeli left of attacking his positions to score points

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abroad.

 

"We have never interfered with other people's affairs and we expect of others not stand with a stopwatch in hand," Lieberman told party members at a conference.

 

Washington has other ideas however. State Department spokesman Robert Wood responded to a question regarding the foreign minister's statements, saying that the US' top priority was to steer the stagnated talks back to the pursuit of the two-state solution.

 

Wood said that President Barack Obama's special envoy to the Mideast, George Mitchell, would be visiting the region next week to "continue discussions with how we can move back to a very positive track with the goal being a two-state solution. We are going to hear comments from various parties about how they assess things.

 

"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."

 

Wood acknowledged that the situation was complex. "You know, it’s difficult. It’s not easy. And the people on both sides want to see results. And this Administration, in appointing a special envoy so early on in its tenure, shows that it’s committed to trying to get – to jumpstart this process to get everybody focused on the bigger goal, which is trying to get to that two-state solution. So it’s a process and there are going to be ups and downs, but we’ve got to continue to work through them," he said.

 

Sources in Washington say that at present time President Obama does not have plans to visit Israel in June, nor are there clear plans for Prime Minister Netanyahu to visit Washington in May.

 

Behind the scenes both sides are intent on reassuring each other, with the Americans maintaining restraint in the face of Foreign Minister Lieberman's statements until the Netanyahu government formally lays out its foreign policy agenda.

 

'The elephant running amok'

Lieberman riled not only American nerves on Tuesday, but Israeli ones as well. Opposition MK Yohanan Plesner from Kadima said that Leiberman's comments "are causing grave harm to Israel's (ties) to the US administration. The fears preceding his appointment to such a sensitive office are proved true every day anew.

 

"At such a sensitive time, when Israeli-US ties are about to be redefined, Lieberman is damaging the relationship and putting at risk America's commitment to supporting Israel. Lieberman needs to understand that state diplomacy can't be managed like a branch of Yisrael Beitenu," he said.

 

Plesner said that Labor now has one last chance to "come to its senses and stop playing the role of fig leaf for a government that is causing so much damage to Israel's foreign relations."

 

And as for the 'opposition' within Labor? MK Eitan Cabel: "The elephant continues to run amok and there is no one to stop him. I expect the Labor ministers, first and foremost among them (Defense Minister Ehud Barak), to stop standing on the sidelines – because this is the promise made to the public when (Labor) entered the coalition. It must be stopped now because the man's lack of control over his mouth causes irreparable harm."

 

Labor MK Yuli Tamir told Ynet: "People listen to Lieberman in the world, they just don't agree with him. His words are testament to the fact that the current government is a right-wing government that is disconnected form the world, and that the Labor party has no place in it."

 

Amnon Meranda contributed to this report

 

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