Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman said on Saturday that a permanent Israel-Palestinian peace accord was “impossible” and that Israel should instead seek to negotiate an interim accord.
Liberman, who was foreign minister until December, also said Yair Lapid was a welcome coalition member, but that he should forget about becoming foreign minister, a position which would remain with his Yisrael Beytenu party.
Liberman was speaking at the end of a week in which Barack Obama’s late-March first presidential visit to Israel was announced, in which Vice President Joe Biden and new Secretary of State John Kerry spoke of their hopes for progress on the Israeli-Palestinian front, and in which Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu expressed a desire for a return to the negotiating table and “prudent” stewardship of the peace process.
Speaking on Channel 2’s Meet the Press, Liberman said a permanent accord was not feasible, and that Israel should instead seek “to negotiate on a long-term interim accord.”
Liberman was interviewed hours after his former deputy said the international community treated him as a “leper” because of his undiplomatic utterances. Instead of speaking softly and carrying a big stick, said Ayalon, Israel under Liberman “spoke loudly and carried a baby carrot.” Liberman rejected the critique as motivated by a grudge; Liberman left Ayalon off the Yisrael Beytenu Knesset list for the January 22 elections.
Turning to the coalition talks, Liberman said Lapid — whose party won 19 seats in last month’s elections — was an “acceptable and desired” candidate for the governing coalition Netanyahu is cobbling together.
Contrary to his criticism of Lapid earlier this week for being obsessed “with being prime minister” before he had even taken his Knesset seat, Liberman said “the man understands his limitations, he understands he has to be in a coalition,” and that together their parties would form the broadest possible coalition.
When asked whether Lapid would be appropriate for the Foreign Ministry, Liberman responded that “the foreign minister portfolio will remain with Yisrael Beytenu. It will remain with Netanyahu until after the court’s decision [in Liberman’s trial].” Liberman, who resigned as foreign minister in December to fight a fraud and breach of trust charge, added that he and Netanyahu agreed long before the elections to give the foreign minister’s portfolio to Liberman’s party.
Liberman suggested that Lapid, whose campaign focused heavily on economic issues, would be better suited in the Finance Ministry, not the Foreign Ministry.
The Likud-Beytenu alliance No. 2 said he did not negate the possibility of anyone joining the coalition — not Lapid, nor Tzipi Livni, nor the ultra-Orthodox parties. Liberman said he speaks often with Livni and that her inclusion in the governing coalition would be welcome.