Lieberman described Iran as the biggest problem in the region [Reuters]

Binyamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, has distanced himself from foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman's speech at the United Nations, saying it "was not co-ordinated" with the prime minister's office.

Lieberman told the UN General Assembly on Tuesday that an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement would take "decades", and dismissed current talks between the two sides as unrealistic.

He said a deal would not happen until the Palestinians "raise an entire new generation that will have mutual trust and will not be influenced by incitement and extremist messages".

The foreign minister also described Iran as the largest problem in the region, and said that "the Iranian issue must be resolved" before solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Lieberman also presented a plan for what he calls a "population and territory swap", which would see majority-Arab areas in Israel become part of a future Palestinian state. Critics have called the plan a population transfer, a scheme to evict the Arabs who make up some 20 per cent of Israel's population.

Netanyahu rebuke

None of this was received well by Netanyahu, who issued a public rebuke to his foreign minister hours after the speech.

"Lieberman's address was not co-ordinated with the prime minister," Netanyahu's office said in a statement. "[The prime minister] is the one handling the negotiations on Israel's behalf. The various issues surrounding a peace agreement will be discussed and decided only at the negotiating table, and nowhere else."

It wasn't the first clash between the two men.

In July, Lieberman appointed a new acting ambassador to the UN without Netanyahu's approval, a move the prime minister reportedly called unacceptable. The foreign minister also presented what he called a "Gaza disengagement plan", which would see Israel completely seal its border with the Gaza Strip.

Lieberman's Yisrael Beiteinu party is the second-largest member of Israel's governing coalition, behind only Netanyahu's Likud party.

Source: Agencies