|Israel’s government is under pressure from hard-right parties to end a freeze on settlement growth [Getty Images]|
Israel’s foreign minister has been quoted by the country’s army radio as saying he believes that peace with the Palestinians is unattainable in a year or “during the next generation”.
Avigdor Lieberman’s reported comments come days after the first round of US-sponsored direct talks between Israelis and Palestinians commenced in Washington, with a declared goal of reaching an accord within one year.
“I do not believe that a comprehensive agreement with the Palestinians is possible within a year, nor even during the next generation,” Lieberman is quoted as telling members of his ultra-nationalist Yisrael Beitenu party at a function in advance of Wednesday’s Jewish new year.
“Since the Oslo accords 17 years ago, important politicians have made multiple pledges and statements that nothing ever came of.
“We have not examined in depth the reasons why we have paid such a high price for each accord with the Palestinians which has had no results.”
The talks between Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, and Mahmud Abbas, the Palestinian president, will face their first major hurdle later this month when an Israeli settlement moratorium expires.
The Palestinians have insisted that if Israel does not renew the partial freeze on settlement construction in the occupied West Bank when it expires on September 26, the peace process will come to an end.
Netanyahu is under pressure from hard-right groups who dominate his ruling coalition to resume the construction, and has said settlements should be discussed alongside other core disputes that have hampered past attempts at peace, including the final status of Jerusalem and the fate of Palestinian refugees.
Lieberman, in separate remarks broadcast by the private Channel 2 television, said “Abu Mazen (Abbas) will not sign a comprehensive agreement. That is why we should look for a long-term interim accord and concentrate on Israel’s security”.
Reacting to Lieberman’s comments, Mustafa al-Barghouti, leader of the Palestinian National Initiative, has said that “signing of a peace agreement does not mean the end of the conflict and of mutual demands as well as the recognition of Israel as the national state of the Jewish people”.
In a newspaper interview published on Monday, al-Barghouti said Lieberman’s statement that a “comprehensive agreement with the Palestinians is [not] possible within a year, nor even during the next generation” is a genuine expression of Israel’s perspective of a solution.
Al-Barghouti suggested that Israel has sought negotiations in order to buy more time, and to impose a de facto position on the ground through Jewish settlement expansion in the West Bank, which would make a peace settlement almost impossible.