Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman
Photo: AFP

PA: Lieberman an impediment to peace

Foreign minister comes under proverbial fire as his pessimistic prediction of peace process' failure draws mass criticism by government ministers, Palestinian officials

Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman's pessimistic prediction that peace will be remain illusive and unattainable stirred immediate controversy Sunday, with both Palestinian Authority officials and government ministers saying the Israeli politician was an impediment to the fledgling peace process.


Sources close to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attempted to downplay the controversial statement, saying that the prime minister and the foreign minister enjoy a good working relationship.


Nevertheless, several top ministers expressed their concern over what they perceive as Lieberman's "political games" in which he is setting the stage for the possible failure of the peace talks.


"This is, undoubtedly, a problem," said a cabinet minister. "Can you imagine what would have happened if the Palestinian foreign minister had made such a statement? We'd all be jumping down his throat."


Ghassan Khatib, spokesman for the Palestinian government, said that participation of politicians like Lieberman in the Israeli government "is one of the things impeding any progress towards peace, because peace means the end of the occupation, while Lieberman is a fan of the occupation and settlement activity."


Khatib added that no matter what influence Lieberman may have on the Israeli government's decision making process, the PA sees him as the Israeli government's foreign minister.


"The key to achieving peace with Israel is achieving security and peace – which are Israel's benchmark conditions for any peace agreement. Without an end to the occupation, there can be no peace. As far as we are concerned, Lieberman's type of thinking in the government is a major obstacle to the process."


Knesset Member Nachman Shai (Kadima) seems to share the sentiment: Shai said Sunday that while "the prime minister is at least showing signs of seeking ways to promote the negotiations, Lieberman is placing hurdles in his way.


"The foreign minister's statements undermines the prime minister's credibility and raise doubts – does Israel have one government or two, each with its own foreign policy… The prime minister needs to see if the FM is representing his government or working against it."


Power play?

Minister of Minority Affairs Avishay Braverman urged Netanyahu to consider replacing Lieberman, saying that "when a foreign minister behaves like this vis-à-vis a PM who declares he is aiming for a breakthrough in the talks – it's a sabotage of the prime minister's policy.If Lieberman cannot support the process, the prime minister will have to find someone who does."


One senior minister dismissed the statements, saying Lieberman is irrelevant to the negotiations: "Lieberman represents only one side of the coin. I hear him and I realize that he is looking out for his own political interests. He's trying to pull the remainder of the far-right elements in the Likud to his party. He doesn’t scare anyone."


Sources in the Likud hedged that Netanyahu stands only to gain from Lieberman's stance, saying that the farther to the right Lieberman goes – the stronger Netanyahu's statue in the public eye becomes.


"The coalition is stable," a party source told Ynet. "You simply have to understand the rules of the game. Lieberman says whatever he says, but quietly, he supports Netanyahu."


Ali Waked contributed to this report





פרסום ראשון: 09.06.10, 01:07
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