01/20/2011 21:20

Lieberman slams PA in talks with French FM; Dennis Ross and David Hale here for talks on Israeli security needs.
Talkbacks (36)

The Palestinian Authority’s insistence on confronting Israel in international forums at every opportunity cannot go on forever, and will lead to a breakdown in ties between Israel and the PA, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said in a meeting Thursday with new French Foreign Minister Michele Alliot- Marie. He told his French counterpart that there was a “dangerous gap” in relations between Israel and the PA.

“While Israel last week approved 5,300 additional jobs for Palestinians inside Israel, the PA presented a resolution to the UN Security Council condemning Israel for all possible sins,” Lieberman said. “This gap cannot remain forever and will lead to a breakdown of ties between the sides.”

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Lieberman said Israel would not sit back and perpetually absorb Palestinian “criticism and insults.” He said the Foreign Ministry is preparing a report charting what Israel and the PA have and have not done to move the diplomatic process forward since the beginning of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s government in March 2009.

Lieberman said that on the Israeli side of the ledger there was Netanyahu’s Bar-Ilan speech adopting the two-state program, the removal of roadblocks, a 10-month settlement freeze, and providing the Palestinians with a frequency for a cellular phone network. The Palestinians, on the other hand, have brought Israel to the UN Human Rights Council and the International Court in The Hague, condemned Israel at the UN Security Council, and named streets and squares in Palestinian cities after terrorists.“Israel can’t allow this situation to continue,” he said.

Lieberman also highlighted the hypocrisy of the Arab League, which he said worked “with great energy to condemn Israel,” but did not show the same energy in dealing “with issues no less important than peace in the Middle East, such as the situation in Tunisia, Lebanon, Iraq and other places.”

Alliot-Marie, in addition to meeting Lieberman, also met Thursday with President Shimon Peres, just before he heard of his wife Sonia’s death, with Netanyahu, and with Defense Minister Ehud Barak.

Netanyahu told Alliot-Marie, who is scheduled to visit Gaza on Friday, that Israel would work toward “disengaging” from Gaza’s infrastructure, starting with removing the area from Israel’s water and electricity grids.

This plan was first brought up by Lieberman in the summer, with the idea being that the EU would be asked to help build a power plant, water desalination plant and sewage treatment plant in Gaza to make it self sufficient.

One of the rationales behind the plan was that it would help Gaza’s economy without necessarily strengthening Hamas.

In addition to Alliot-Marie, White House senior adviser Dennis Ross and US Middle East envoy George Mitchell’s top aide David Hale arrived in Israel Thursday for discussions Jerusalem said were aimed at charting Israel’s security needs under any future accord.

The goal, according to a statement issued by the PMO, was to preserve Israel’s qualitative military edge after any future agreement.

One of the main obstacles hindering a renewal of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations has been the Palestinian insistence to first talk about settlements and borders, and Israel countering that security should be discussed first, because no decisions on borders could be made without knowing precisely what security arrangements would be put into place.

The US efforts to map out precisely Israel’s perception of its security requirements after the establishment of a Palestinian state is widely seen as a US effort to bridge the gaps between the two sides’ positions, with the US talking with Israel about what Jerusalem wants to talk about first.

Netanyahu has said in the past he would agree to a Palestinian state only if that state would be demilitarized, meaning – in part – that Israel needed to retain a security presence on the Jordan River to prevent the type of arms smuggling that takes place from Syria to Hizbullah in Lebanon, and from Egypt into Gaza.

While Western sources said an agreement had been hammered out by the sides during the days of the Olmert government with US General James Jones for an American-led NATO force to be stationed along the Jordan River, Netanyahu is adamant that – at least for the foreseeable future – there must be an Israeli presence there as well. The Palestinians are opposed to any Israeli soldiers’ stationed in their future state.

This is Ross’ third visit to the country in a month. Mitchell has not been back since mid-December.

Although this has been interpreted by some as an indication of Ross’ ascendency on the Middle East issue in Washington, others say the tales of Ross-Mitchell turf tension are way overblown, and that Mitchell does not have to come so often because others – including Hale – are here frequently and are “carrying the water.”

Another reason why it does not appear likely that Ross will push Mitchell out, another Western diplomatic source said recently, was because while Ross is acceptable as an intermediary to Israel, he has little credibility in Ramallah, where Mitchell is perceived as a more honest broker.

In Washington Thursday, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton underscored American opposition to Palestinian unilateral moves at the UN, saying that the only way to achieve a two-state solution is through negotiations.

“We don’t see action in the UN or any other forum as being helpful in bringing about that desired outcome,” Clinton said in a response to a question posed during a press appearance after a meeting with her Estonian counterpart.

Clinton stressed that the US position on settlements remains the same, but that ultimately “the Palestinian and Israeli people have to make a decision about whether they can engage in negotiations that will result in compromise on both sides.”

Clinton noted that the Quartet of the US, EU, UN and Russia would be meeting in Jerusalem Friday to discuss ways to make progress in the peace process.