The foreign minister is lowering his expectations with regards to additional Israeli diplomatic efforts and says the ball is in the Palestinian court. Speaking at the Ariel University Center on Thursday, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said, "Now the time for Israeli gestures has ended. The Palestinians can decide whether they want to come to the negotiations table or not."
Addressing the construction freeze in West Bank settlements, the foreign minister said, "Let be clear – in 10 months construction in the Judea and Samaria will resume in an open and transparent manner."
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has already expressed a similar stance, but so far has refrained from clearly stating that this is the last gesture on Israel's part.
Lieberman added, "The current government has made many gesture to the Palestinians, including the removal of checkpoints, the Bar Ilan speech, permission to hold the Fatah conference and the 10-month settlement freeze in Judea and Samaria.
"We cannot tolerate a situation in which (Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas) keeps threatening to resign and shouting 'support me'. The ball is in the Palestinian court."
The foreign minister added that the decision to freeze construction in settlements was a necessary move. "There has been no construction and no issuing of permits in Judea and Samaria for over a year-and-a-half now. Only by making this move will we be able to return to building on a large scale and in a transparent manner."
Lieberman told his audience that the coalition agreement between his Yisrael Beiteinu party and the Likud could be realized as early as the start of 2010. The agreement includes a clause which calls for the declaration of the Ariel University Center as a university.
Earlier, Defense Minister Ehud Barak also commented on the construction freeze and said the decision was made out of "our understanding of our prime duty of making sure all negotiation options remain open."
Barak added, "We have a year of very comprehensive action ahead of us, including a few difficult decisions on diplomatic, security and economic matters awaiting the government."