Liberman: We are ‘closer than ever’ to deal with Palestinians
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Why the optimism? 'Because Trump has arrived on the scene...'

Liberman: We are ‘closer than ever’ to deal with Palestinians

Defense minister says opportunities for full ties with Arab world could help sway Netanyahu government to accept arrangement

Defense Minister and leader of Israel Beytenu party, Avigdor Liberman, leads the faction meeting at the Knesset on March 20, 2017. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)
Defense Minister and leader of Israel Beytenu party, Avigdor Liberman, leads the faction meeting at the Knesset on March 20, 2017. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman said Thursday that Israel was “closer than ever” to an agreement with the Palestinians and that the opportunity for full relations with Arab states would sway the Netanyahu government to accept a deal.

“We are far closer to an agreement than ever before,” Liberman told Channel 2 on Thursday. “I hope we will be able to realize this option.”

Liberman did not offer any details about the agreement on the table, referring to it only as an “arrangement,” but indicated US President Donald Trump’s administration had played a role in cobbling the pact together and that it would include other regional players.

When asked how the deal would come together, Liberman responded: “Because Trump has arrived on the scene and because, as I keep saying, the Arab countries have internalized that their problem is not Israel. Israel can be a solution to the problem.”

“If someone comes and puts a deal on the table that includes an agreement with all the moderate Arab states, including the opening of embassies, trade relations and direct flights, I believe that it will get an overwhelming majority in the Knesset and among the people,” he told Channel 2.

Asked what such a scenario depends upon, he said he would “leave that for the next interview,” and refused to further elaborate.

Liberman, who is scheduled to be interviewed next week at a Times of Israel Presents event, said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was committed to working toward an elusive agreement.

“If you’re asking me whether Netanyahu is making every effort,” he added, “yes, he is. I can testify that he is making a great many efforts.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (L) and US President Donald Trump seen at Ben Gurion International Airport prior to the latter's departure from Israel on May 23, 2017. (Koby Gideon/GPO)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (L) and US President Donald Trump seen at Ben Gurion International Airport prior to the latter’s departure from Israel on May 23, 2017. (Koby Gideon/GPO)

Trump has been pushing Israel and the Palestinians to resume peace talks and has indicated that he would like help both sides reach “the ultimate deal.”

As Trump wrapped up his visit to Israel last month, a senior White House official said the US would now work on building strong relationships in the Middle East between Israel and its Arab neighbors that would create momentum for a peace deal.

Liberman has long said he does not believe such a deal would be achievable in the foreseeable future.

Israel has reportedly been suing for a regional deal that would not necessarily involve a final status agreement with the Palestinians, a position apparently supported by the White House.

However, Gulf Arab state and Palestinians say they continue to support the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative, which sets a peace deal with the Palestinians as a precondition for the opening of ties between Israel as the wider Arab world.

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