Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, speaking at Sunday's cabinet meeting, addressed Minister Avigdor Lieberman's statements regarding the separation of Jewish and Arab populations: "Lieberman's opinions do not reflect mine. That's not the government's position and Avigdor knows that. I am in favor of Arab citizens having equal rights and I never hid that. So long I am prime minister this will be the policy of the State of Israel," Olmert said.
Defense Minister Amir Peretz slammed Lieberman's comments about Israel's Arab citizens, saying they cause unnecessary unrest. Peretz also said that the government should condemn his statements.
Labor ministers announced that they categorically denounce Lieberman's statements. "His statements are unacceptable and completely insubmissible. I hope the prime minister conducts a thorough inquiry into this matter," said Tourism Minister Isaac Herzog.
In his first interview to the foreign press as newly-appointed Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Strategic Affairs Lieberman told the British Telegraph Sunday that the best means of achieving peace in the Middle East would be for Jews and Arabs to live apart, including those Arabs who now live inside Israel.
"We established Israel as a Jewish country," he told the Telegraph. "I want to provide an Israel that is a Jewish, Zionist country."
Lieberman also addressed the issue of evacuating West Bank settlements. He said he does not intend to support such a move without receiving something 'in exchange' for them: the transfer of Israeli Arab areas from Israeli to Palestinian rule.
Lieberman said he believes that minorities are the biggest problem in the world, and asserted that in his opinion, Israel should follow Cyprus' model of national separation: "I think separation between two nations is the best solution. Cyprus is the best model. Before 1974, the Greeks and Turks lived together and there were frictions and bloodshed and terror. "After 1974, they constituted all Turks on one part of the island, all Greeks on the other part of the island and there is stability and security," he explained.
When the interviewer pointed out that in Cyprus thousands were forcibly driven from their homes, he replied: "Yes, but the final result was better."