Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman said the US was mistaken for blaming Israel’s continued settlement activity for the breakdown of peace negotiations with the Palestinians last month.
Addressing recent reports that US President Barack Obama, Secretary of State John Kerry and special envoy Martin Indyk have all primarily blamed the settlements for the failure, Liberman said Israel and the US are great friends and that “even good friends are [sometimes] mistaken.”
“The Americans are mistaken on the settlements. Just like they were mistaken when pushing for Palestinian elections [in 2006, which saw Hamas rise to power.] The settlements are not an obstacle to peace and never have been,” Liberman charged.
Blaming the settlements for the breakdown of negotiations, like the Palestinians have done, is an excuse, said the foreign minister.
“I’m against confrontation with the US,” he added, “but we cannot fold. We must present an alternative. There are alternative ideas and we must convince the Americans [that they are worth pursuing].”
The Foreign Ministry presented to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu an alternative plan to peace negotiations with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, Liberman said Saturday.
Liberman kept mum on the details of the plan, but hinted that it involves a viewpoint in which Israel looks beyond the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and takes into account regional developments in the wake of the Arab Spring which saw widespread chaos and violence grip Israel’s neighbors.
“There’s a lot we can do,” Liberman said during an interview with Channel 2’s Meet the Press. “Look around us, at Lebanon, Egypt, Syria. There’s a whole [Palestinian] business community, that suffers [from Abbas] and there are developments there.”
“With Abu Mazen [Mahmoud Abbas] there will be no agreements. Abbas is not a partner for peace,” said Liberman, adding, “there are many facts that support [this notion]. I’ll present one: Palestinian prisoners, whoever among them murdered the most Israelis, get 12,000 NIS a month, when a policeman gets 2,700 NIS. And the Palestinian Authority says it has no money.”
Commenting on a meeting Thursday between Israel’s chief negotiator and Justice Minister Tzipi Livni and Abbas in London, Liberman said Livni was “entitled to meet with whomever she wished,” and insisted that she was in London mainly on other business and not for continued efforts for peace.
“There was a cabinet decision to halt talks, which Livni supported,” Liberman said.
In the wake of the Palestinian unity pact last month, Israel’s key security cabinet, of which Livni is a member, voted unanimously to suspend negotiations with the PA, saying Israel could not hold peace talks with a government supported by Hamas, an Islamic terrorist organization committed to Israel’s destruction.
Regarding reports published by Newsweek this month that Israel engages in aggressive spying operations in the US, Liberman shot back decisively: “There is absolutely no Israeli spying on the US. Absolutely not.”
“Whatever is being published, we must take it with a grain of salt,” he concluded.
Earlier Saturday, the US State Department denied allegations that Kerry’s envoy Indyk “bashed” Israel during a private conversation at a hotel bar in Washington earlier this month, and blamed Israel solely for the failure in peace talks.
Indyk criticized both sides for the failed peace talks in a speech at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy earlier this month. Days earlier, a Yedioth Ahronoth feature, reportedly based on a briefing by Indyk, quoted unnamed US officials offering a withering assessment of Netanyahu’s handling of the negotiations, indicated that Abbas has completely given up on the prospect of a negotiated solution, and warned Israel that the Palestinians will achieve statehood come what may — either via international organizations or through violence. The officials highlighted Netanyahu’s ongoing settlement construction as the issue “largely to blame” for the failure of Kerry’s July 2013-April 2014 effort to broker a permanent peace accord.
On Thursday, the New York Times published an article, quoting an unnamed US senior official, saying that US President Barack Obama believes, more than any other factor, that Israeli announcements of construction in the West Bank and East Jerusalem throughout the nine months of talks led to the negotiations’ collapse.
In July 2013, Kerry coaxed the Israelis and the Palestinians back to the negotiating table after a three-year hiatus, and both sides agreed to keep talking for nine months. That period expired at the end of April, and the talks collapsed with each side blaming the other for major breaches of the negotiating agreements.