Liberman: World should forget about Israeli-Palestinian conflict
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Liberman: World should forget about Israeli-Palestinian conflict

Defense minister accuses international community of being ‘over-involved,’ says approval of 2,500 housing units in the West Bank ‘nothing new’

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

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman, left, at a INSS conference in Tel Aviv, January 24, 2017 (Hen Galili)
Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman, left, at a INSS conference in Tel Aviv, January 24, 2017 (Hen Galili)

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman on Tuesday called on the entire international community to “forget about” the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, arguing that the world’s “over-involvement” does nothing to help achieve peace.

“What I propose to everyone — to the Europeans, the Americans, the Russians — is first of all not to deal with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Forget about it,” he told a conference of the Israeli Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv.

“Whoever wants to help solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict should first forget it. The over-involvement of the world powers, especially Europe, is only disrupting. They don’t contribute anything to the problem’s solution, they only complicate things.”

The European states do not have a proper understanding of the conflict and its roots and how it develops, the defense minister continued. “And they come here and force themselves [unto the conflict] without being asked.”

Illustrative photo: A view of Efrat, a settlement near Jerusalem (photo credit: Nati Shohat/Flash90)
A view of Efrat, a settlement near Jerusalem (Nati Shohat/Flash90)

A former foreign minister, Liberman said he met with many international leaders and asked them to list one example where international diplomacy succeeded in solving a longstanding conflict. He listed Cyprus, Kosovo, Bosnia, Transnistria, Ireland, Scotland, and other regions in Europe where territorial conflicts are ostensibly ongoing. Europe is currently “looking for direction, falling apart,” Liberman said, citing also the UK’s decision last year to leave the European Union.

“After you succeed in one place you can come and teach us,” he said.

Even beyond their own continent, the Europeans have failed to promote peace in other crises, be it in Africa, Syria, Afghanistan or Iraq, Liberman charged. “And after all that they come to us and give us advice how to make peace,” he said disdainfully.

Liberman also rebuffed viewing Israel’s approval earlier on Tuesday of 2,500 new housing units in the West Bank as a reaction to US President Donald Trump entering the White House.

“There’s nothing new in this. We always built, including under the Obama administration,” he said. The vast majority of the new housing units will be built inside the so-called settlement blocs, he said.

Some 106 units are planned for more remote places, but only in response to promises by previous governments, such as in the case of Migron, or because of court decisions urging the government to decide on the fate of some buildings, like in Beit El.

The defense minister reiterated his position that any dramatic change — such as a building boom outside the blocs or the annexation of Ma’ale Adumim — should only occur in coordination with the White House. Israeli politicians should therefore patiently wait for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s first sit-down with Trump, expected for early February.

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