Liberman: Israel won’t stop PA if it opts to dismantle self

Foreign minister says Jerusalem interested in negotiations no matter what, doesn’t expect Jewish Home coalition defection

Raphael Ahren is the diplomatic correspondent at The Times of Israel.

Avigdor Liberman, left, meeting with Austrian Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz in Jerusalem Tuesday. (photo credit: Yossi Zamir)
Avigdor Liberman, left, meeting with Austrian Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz in Jerusalem Tuesday. (photo credit: Yossi Zamir)

Israel will not interfere should Ramallah choose to dismantle the Palestinian Authority, Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman said Tuesday, addressing reported threats that the Palestinians would collapse the 20-year-old administration should peace talks fail.

Liberman said Israel was willing to continue negotiating a final-status peace agreement, but slammed the PA for making new demands and issuing threats.

“It’s their business; we don’t intend to get involved, in either direction,” Liberman said during a press conference at the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem when asked about reports that Palestinian officials were mulling taking down the PA in case the peace talks ended with no result.

“They’re grownups, and whatever they decide — we’re ready for every scenario. We’re also ready for negotiations. We’re willing to negotiate in Jerusalem, in Ramallah, New York, London, or Vienna. But we need readiness from the other party. It not possible to come with new threats every day — that’s not how you negotiate. Therefore we’re open to every development, to any options, and much depends on the other side.”

A top Palestinian official on Tuesday denied reports about PA President Mahmoud Abbas considering dismantling the PA, which were first reported earlier this week by Israeli daily Yedioth Aharonot.

Liberman on Tuesday also dispelled fears of an imminent coalition crisis and new elections that could follow the resignation of the Jewish Home party in case Israel released more Palestinian prisoners to extend the peace talks beyond their April 29 deadline. The party’s chairman, Economy Minister Naftali Bennett, has threatened to leave the coalition if Jerusalem went ahead with the release of Palestinian security prisoners.

“There is absolutely no chance that Jewish Home is leaving the coalition,” Liberman said. “I am sure about that. And there’s no need to create a connection between statements to reality on the ground. I wouldn’t take these threats of our friend Naftali Bennett to leave the coalition too seriously.”

Speaking to reporters at joint press conference with Austrian Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz, who is currently visiting Israel, Liberman restated his criticism of European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, who last week condemned the Israeli decision to declare an area near the Etzion bloc south of Bethlehem as state land and approve a new Jewish settlement in the southern city of Hebron, a statement from her office said.

On Friday, Liberman had mocked Ashton for criticizing Israel over these matters while apparently neglecting atrocities committed in other places across the Middle East. On the same day that Ashton condemned Israel, “874 people [were] killed in terrorist acts all around us,” Liberman said. “But she condemned the purchasing of a house in Hebron. I think it’s a really very unbalanced approached to the Middle East problem… We expect more understanding and more support [for] the only small democracy in this huge ocean of terror and bloodshed.”

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