A close ally of Israel’s prime minister has called peace with the Palestinians “impossible”, saying the conflict between them and Israel can only be “managed”.
Former foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman in a television interview on Saturday linked the more than two-year-old impasse to political turmoil in the Arab world.
“Anyone who thinks that in the centre of this socio-diplomatic ocean, this tsunami which is jarring the Arab world, it is possible to arrive at the magic solution of a comprehensive peace with the Palestinians does not understand,” Lieberman told Israel’s Channel Two.
“This is impossible. It is not possible to solve the conflict here. The conflict can be managed and it is important to manage the conflict … to negotiate on a long-term interim agreement.”
In a bid to restart negotiations, US President Barack Obama has announced that he will visit Israel and the Palestinian territories in the coming spring.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas broke off talks in late 2010 in protest at Israel’s settlement in the occupied West Bank. He angered Israel and the US in November by securing a UN status upgrade implicitly recognising Palestinian independence in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza.
Israel insists it will keep East Jerusalem and swathes of West Bank settlements under any eventual peace deal. Most world powers consider the settlements illegal because they take up land seized in the 1967 Middle East war.
Lieberman, himself a West Bank settler, said the ball was “in Abu Mazen’s [Abbas’] court” to revive diplomacy.
Abbas has demanded Israel first freeze all settlement construction. With two decades gone since Palestinians signed their first interim deal with Israel, he has ruled out any new negotiations that do not solemnise Palestinian statehood.
Netanyahu’s spokesman Mark Regev said Lieberman was expressing his own opinion in the interview.
Asked how Netanyahu saw prospects for an accord with the Palestinians, Regev referred to a speech on Tuesday in which the conservative prime minister said that Israel, while addressing threats by its enemies, “must also pursue secure, stable and realistic peace with our neighbours”.
Netanyahu has previously spoken in favour of a Palestinian state, though he has been vague on its borders and whether he would be prepared to dismantle Israeli settlements.
Lieberman’s joint party list with Netanyahu narrowly won a January 22 election but his role in the next coalition government is unclear as he faces trial for corruption. If convicted, he could be barred from the cabinet. He has denied wrongdoing and said he would like to regain the foreign portfolio, which he relinquished after his indictment.