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Netanyahu rejects Lieberman's remarks
Published Wednesday 22/08/2012 (updated) 24/08/2012 00:25
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Israel's Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman gestures as he speaks at
a party meeting in Jerusalem on Sept. 26. (Reuters/Ronen Zvulun)

JERUSALEM (Reuters) -- 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.

Talks frozen

A spokesman for Abbas told the official PA news agency WAFA that Lieberman's statements "do not contribute anything to creating an environment of peace" and he urged Netanyahu to denounce them.

Another Palestinian official, Azzam al-Ahmad, strongly condemned the remarks.

"We say it very clearly that if Israel is serious about the peace process, it should get rid of such personalities whose only concern is to talk like the Mafia," the Fatah official said.

"Neither Lieberman nor the Israeli side has a right to intervene in internal Palestinian affairs."

US-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.

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.

Ma'an staff in Bethlehem contributed to this report.
1 ) AKeenReader / UK
22/08/2012 18:45
Nutt-anyahu and his office are lying because the letter was sent on a govt headed paper. If it didn't represent PM's or govts view then he should immediately fire the bouncer Liberman to ally world fears. But I am sure he the Israeli Nutty PM is determined to keep the hot seat rather than his own principles.

2 ) Brian Cohen / Israel
22/08/2012 19:00
Of course Abbas is the main obstacle to peace. The next obstacle is Hamas. We Israelis know that Abbas couldn't sign a peace treaty if he wanted to, and we all see that he most certainly does not want to. He won't sign a peace treaty for the west bank only, and it's impossible to sign a peace treaty that includes Gaza. We know Abbas is too weak to make the concessions needed for peace, so yes, he is the main obstacle because he is their leader.

3 ) EE / UK
22/08/2012 19:23
Lieberman was right.

4 ) Robby / USA
22/08/2012 19:49
1 ) AKeenReader / UK "If it didn't represent PM's or govts view then he should immediately fire ..." does every politician in the UK agree with PM Cameron? And if they don't are they fired immediately?

5 ) Colin Wright / USA
22/08/2012 20:59
To Brian Cohen #2 'Of course Abbas is the main obstacle to peace. The next obstacle is Hamas. ' What's mildly nauseating is recognizing what you mean by 'peace.' In what way does it differ from the 'peace' Hitler intended to bring to Eastern Europe?

6 ) ghada / palestine
22/08/2012 22:32
Of course Israel always want A PIECE ......Greedy in secured Government put the blame on the Palestinian leaders all the time

7 ) Emile / Palestine
22/08/2012 23:53
#2, No Brian, you and your racist ideology are the obstacle to peace. The one state is coming buddy, like it or not. Wake up Palestinians, we need to demand elections now! Not in Gaza and the West Bank only, but rather in the entire State of Palestine/Israel from river to sea. Elections for all who inhabit the holy land: Muslim, Christian and Jew.

8 ) Yehuda Solomon / Israel
23/08/2012 02:32
@ 5) Colin Wright/USA, Answer: What's nauseating is your barf about Hitler. Hitler intended to bring "peace" not just to Eastern Europe but practically the entire world by making his "master race" enforce a Germanic/Nazi Europe and a Greater German/Nazi Empire worldwide, moron. What Israel means by peace is simply establishing us as our nation on only approx. 25% of original, total (Ottoman Empire) Palestine--land WEST of the Jordan River--and leaving the other approx. 75% to the (cont.)

9 ) Yehuda Solomon / Israel
23/08/2012 02:49
Palestinians. Even if Hitler had restricted his "empire" to only Eastern Europe, he would have annexed land (Austrian, Polish, Czechoslovakian, Russian, etc.) that Germany had no right nor reason to for any (major) historical, cultural or other reason. (Forget about ethnic Germans living in Austria/other Eastern European nations before 1939. Hell, they could just as easily have gotten their damn German asses out of there and CROSSED the border back to Germany according to the Treaty (cont.)

10 ) Yehuda Solomon / Israel
23/08/2012 03:03
of Versailles. Even under borders of reduced territory, Germany still had PLENTY of land FOR itself.) So if you're accusing or comparing us to German/Nazi-style "empire-building" or "Judaizing/"Israelitizing" land we have no right to you're insane. Separately ... Lieberman IS wrong ... I admire him for his staunch support (like me) of Greater Israel (establishing Israel on all land west of that Jordan River) but it IS we, not the Palestinians, who are the obstacles to peace. THIS IS (cont.)

11 ) Yehuda Solomon / Israel
23/08/2012 03:21
ABSOLUTELY, POSITIVELY 100% TRUE. At any time we could easily stop all settlement-building, split and give eastern Jerusalem back to the Palestinians and totally withdraw from the W. Bank. In other words, go straight back to how everything was before Jun., 1967. The Palestinians are 100% blameless, we ARE ... and since we damn well are NOT doing ANY of that crap ... the world can just keep on blaming us. So all that plus a few shekels or so will get you a nice cup of java to cry over.

12 ) Joe Fattal / USA
23/08/2012 07:00
I wouldn't sign any peace treaty with Israel, neither I would make any concessions and neither I would I talk directly or indirectly wih Israel government under Netanyahu. I would take the same stand that Iran is taking. Past negotiations would tell us that Israel is not interested in peace, while building settlements Netanyahu wants to talk peace, so why talk. I would let history change the outcome. The State of Israel was created by man let Nutt destroy it.

13 ) gabi / australia
23/08/2012 08:11
#2- what part do you think the ever increasing number of settlements plays in the so-called peace process? When Arafat foreswore violence 8 years or so ago all he got was more settlements. So why don't you look to Israel's actions instead of always playing the victim. If Israel wasn't occupying someone else's land there wouldn't need to be a peace treaty. And don't give me the "they shouldn't have invaded us" because Israel was the invader in 1967 - and boasted about it at the time.

14 ) AKeenReader / UK
23/08/2012 10:54
#4) Robby/USA.... you don't seem to know the difference between a politician and a member of cabinet. There is a vast difference. This bouncer Liberman is a member of the Israeli cabinet and a person who is supposed to deal and implement Israeli foreign policy all over the world. He is also the leader for all Israeli Ambassadors around the world. If he doesn't have sense when to shut up then he shouldn't be in the govt. He better return to bouncing duties in a night club. lol

15 ) Robby / USA
23/08/2012 17:46
14 ) AKeenReader / UK - So there is no one in your Primer Minister's Cabinet that disagrees with him? How peaceful and zen.
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