Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman continued to second-guess direct peace talks Monday morning after the Palestinian Authority blasted his recent comments as an impediment to peace.
Lieberman also met President Shimon Peres later Monday, and the two joked about their different takes on the negotiations. "We have something special for you: A duet between the most optimistic and pessimistic men in Israeli diplomacy," Peres told reporters.
Earlier Lieberman told Israel Radio's morning program that "aside from the enthusiastic party there must be someone who cools down and lowers expectations."
"We are going to sign (a deal) with someone on shaky ground," he added, referring to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
"The US forced him into this meeting in Washington. Who does Abbas represent? Hamas is in power in Gaza, and the elections in the Palestinian Authority have been postponed two or three times. Any government that comes to power in the next elections can renounce Abbas and say he doesn't represent anyone."
Lieberman added that the Palestinians were attempting to harm the peace process. "The other side is always looking for excuses why not to hold serious negotiations. For them it is all a show to blame Israel for the failure of talks, so why give them the opportunity to blame us?"
He claimed a responsible state must define realistic goals. "I am afraid of creating a situation with a lot of expectations that cannot be reached, after which the blame will fall on us. That can't happen. We must speak in realistic terms," he said.
"The disappointment that comes afterwards could ruin what we have accomplished up until now."
The foreign minister added that the most that can be hoped for is a long-term interim arrangement. "The alternative is to expand our achievements in the areas of economics and security," he said.
Despite this, Lieberman stressed that he was in favor of giving the direct talks a chance. "I'm not against the government. I've said I'm willing to give the prime minister a chance," he said.
"We would be glad for and hope that regional peace will be declared in the Middle East, but I am attempting to stay close to reality, and that means that what we need now is a long-term interim arrangement."
Peres was more optimistic. After the meeting between the two leaders he said, "I believe the talks in Washington are historic. Wherever I go people ask me whether they are serious or just a photo-op, but I say it's serious. I have been a politician for a while now and I've noticed that sometimes leaders don't decide reality themselves. Sometimes reality is what creates the leaders' decisions."
The president added that it was "time to say yes", and that both Israel and the Palestinians had undergone "a process of maturation" that had readied them for the negotiations.
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