Liberman urges ‘regional agreement’ with moderate Arabs

Liberman urges ‘regional agreement’ with moderate Arabs

Current Mideast situation makes separate peace deal with Palestinians impossible, foreign minister tells John Kerry

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

John Kerry, left, and Avigdor Liberman in Paris Thursday, June 26, 2014. (photo credit: Erez Lichtenfeld)
John Kerry, left, and Avigdor Liberman in Paris Thursday, June 26, 2014. (photo credit: Erez Lichtenfeld)

Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman called on Thursday for a “new political structure in the Middle East” that would entail a coalition of Israel and the moderate Arab states uniting to face the common threat of the “extremists of the Arab world.”

Current circumstances in the Middle East make a separate peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians impossible, Liberman told US Secretary of State John Kerry during a meeting in Paris. Rather, “we must reach an overall regional agreement,” Liberman said. “Israel’s longstanding conflict is not only with the Palestinians but with the Arab world of which the Palestinians are a part. Therefore, we must reach an agreement that will include the moderate Arab states, the Palestinians and the Israeli Arabs.”

This is the first time that “a strategic consensus of interests has been created between the moderate elements in the Arab world and Israel,” the foreign minister said, “as both must contend with the Iranian threats, worldwide jihad and al-Qaeda, as well as the overflow of the conflict in Syria and Iraq to neighboring states.”

The Arab Peace Initiative, launched in 2002 by Saudi Arabia and since adopted by the entire Arab and Muslim world, offers “full diplomatic and normal relations” with Israel in exchange for a “comprehensive peace agreement” with the Palestinians. Liberman is now trying to turn this offer around: first a comprehensive agreement with the wider Arab world, followed by peace deal with the Palestinians later on.

The conditions prevailing in the region today have created the basis for the “creation of a new political structure in the Middle East,” Liberman said, according to a statement released by his office. Any kind of peace agreement must “include the Arab states and Israeli Arabs,” he insisted, referring to his controversial plan to redraw Israel’s borders in order to annex Israeli settlements and leave major Arab population centers on the Palestinian side of the border.

The Israeli minister also spoke about the current security situation in Iraq. The country is “dissolving before our eyes,” he said, adding that the establishment of an independent Kurdish state is “probably inevitable.” The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and other extremists factions will try to undermine the stability of the entire Gulf area, Liberman said, “and Israel can provide support and assistance to the moderate Arab states against the extremists of the Arab world.”

He also thanked Kerry for Washington’s “firm position” regarding the gravity of the kidnapping of three Israeli teenagers earlier this month, and told him that the teens’ parents wished to meet with him.

In Paris, Liberman was also set to meet with his French counterpart, Laurent Fabius.

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