Lieberman tries to re-focus international concern on Abbas’ failure to make peace
News reports from Al Arabiya and Huffington Post
Netanyahu rejects foreign minister’s call for Palestinian voters to oust Abbas
By Al Arabiya/AFP
August 22, 2012
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rebuked his far-right foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman, on Wednesday for suggesting Palestinians should vote out their president to help revive peace efforts.
Netanyahu’s opening of a public rift with his coalition ally appeared to be an attempt to minimize any diplomatic fallout at a time when Israel is trying to persuade world powers to ramp up sanctions against Iran over its nuclear activities.
In a letter to Catherine Ashton, the European Union’s foreign policy chief, Lieberman accused President Mahmoud Abbas of “acting to undermine attempts to renew the peace process”.
Lieberman urged the Palestinians to hold a long-delayed election to choose “a new, legitimate, hopefully realistic” leadership that can “bring progress with Israel”.
Abbas was elected in 2005 and his original mandate expired in 2009. However, plans for a new ballot have been regularly postponed because of a deep schism within Palestinian politics.
Through an official in his office, Netanyahu swiftly distanced himself from Lieberman’s comments. Lieberman heads the Yisrael Beitenu party, which holds 15 of the 66 seats that Netanyahu’s coalition controls in the 120-member parliament.
“What was written in the letter by the foreign minister does not correctly represent the position of the prime minister or of the government as a whole,” said the official, who declined to be identified by name.
“While the Palestinian leadership under Abu Mazen (Abbas) has created difficulties that have prevented the resumption of talks, Israel is committed to working with the Palestinian leadership to restarting the dialogue, and of course Israel does not interfere in election processes in other places,” the official said.
A spokesman for the Western-backed Abbas told the official Palestinian news agency WAFA that Lieberman’s statements “do not contribute anything to creating an environment of peace” and he urged Netanyahu to denounce them.
U.S.-hosted peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians collapsed shortly after they restarted in 2010, in a dispute over Israeli settlement-building in the occupied West Bank.
Abbas has said negotiations could resume only if Israel halted settlement construction. Netanyahu, who refused in 2010 to extend a 10-month moratorium on housing starts in the occupied West Bank, has dismissed preconditions.
“In a calculated manner, Mr. Abbas is focusing his dialogue with the international community on the subject of settlements,” wrote Lieberman, who himself lives in a settlement.
“Unfortunately, the international community tends to accept this discourse, lock, stock and barrel, without criticism or a nuanced approach,” he added.
“The time has come to consider a creative solution, to think ‘outside the box,’ in order to strengthen the Palestinian leadership,” wrote Lieberman.
Palestinians fear settlements, built on territory Israel captured in a 1967 war and which they seek for a future state, will deny them a viable country in any peace deal.
The World Court and the European Union regard settlements as illegal under international law. Israel disputes this and cites historical and Biblical links to the West Bank, an area it calls Judea and Samaria.
By Ian Ditch, Huffington Post
August 22, 2012
JERUSALEM — Israel’s foreign minister urged the international community to help oust Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas whose policies he called “an obstacle to peace” in a letter released Wednesday.
Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman wrote to the Quartet of Mideast mediators – the U.S., the U.N., the EU and Russia – this week calling for new elections in the Palestinian Authority in order to replace Abbas, accusing the Palestinian Authority of being “a despotic government riddled with corruption.”
“Despite Mr. Abbas’ delays, general elections in the Palestinian Authority should be held and a new, legitimate, hopefully realistic leadership should be elected” he wrote. “Only such a leadership can bring progress with Israel. We must maximize the holding of new elections in the PA alongside the tremendous changes in the Arab world, in order to bring a serious change between Israel and the Palestinians.”
Abbas’ spokesman, Nabil Abu Rdeneh, rejected Lieberman’s statement, calling it an “incitement to violence” that “doesn’t contribute in any way to an atmosphere of peace.” He urged Israel and the international community to condemn the letter.
Elections for new Palestinian leadership were scheduled for 2010, but have repeatedly been delayed because of the bitter dispute between Abbas’ Fatah and the militant Hamas, bitter rivals who had a violent falling out in 2007 and now separately govern the West Bank and Gaza Strip respectively.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also sought to quickly disassociate himself from the letter. An official in the prime minister’s office, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue, said the letter does not represent the government’s position.
“While Abbas has created difficulties for restarting negotiations, the government of Israel remains committed to continuing efforts to restart a dialogue with the Palestinians,” he said.
Lieberman, who leads a hardline party in Israel, is known for inflammatory rhetoric that has at times agitated his partners in government.
He embarrassed Netanyahu in the past by expressing skepticism over the chances of reaching peace with the Palestinians. In a high-profile speech at the United Nations General Assembly in 2010, he contradicted a goal set by President Barack Obama of reaching a final peace deal in the coming year.
Lieberman wrote that Abbas should be replaced so that peace talks that collapsed in 2008 could be revived.
Abbas has refused to resume talks as long as Israel refuses to stop settlement construction in the West Bank and east Jerusalem, areas Palestinians want as part of their future state. Israel rejects the calls for a halt to settlement building, and instead has called for peace talks to resume, saying that the settlement issue should be resolved along with other core disputes through negotiations.
Lieberman listed in his letter a number of gestures Israel recently has made to the Palestinians – including agreeing for an additional 5,000 Palestinians to work in Israel and reducing the number of roadblocks – and accused Abbas in return of “encouraging a culture of hatred, praising terrorists, encouraging sanctions and boycotts and calling into question the legitimacy of the state.”
“Due to Abbas’ weak standing, and his policy of not renewing the negotiations, which is an obstacle to peace, the time has come to consider a creative solution … in order to strengthen the Palestinian leadership,” Lieberman said.
In Washington, U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said the U.S. has “a good working relationship with President Abbas. … And so we expect to be able to continue to work well with him.”
She also noted that Netanyahu had “clarified that the foreign minister’s letter doesn’t reflect his position and that he (Netanyahu) has responsibility for these issues.”