Lieberman rules out settlement freeze, 'even for three hours'
The foreign minister spoke at a conference for foreign diplomats, along with President Shimon Peres, who criticized the recent reconciliation between Hamas and Fatah.
Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman responded to a Palestinian call for Israel to renew its settlement freeze by saying that Israel would do no such thing, "not even for three hours."
The foreign minister, while speaking at the Presidential residence in Jerusalem to foreign diplomats and foreign consular employees said "there will be no building freeze in Jerusalem or in the West Bank, not for three months, not for three days, not even for three hours."
Liberman was responding to a demand made by Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas for a short building freeze, possibly for a few months. A ten month freeze on Israeli settlement building expired in September. Since then the Palestinians have refused to return to negotiations until there is another freeze.
Although he rejected Abbas' request for a settlement building freeze, Lieberman said "we are ready to renew negotiations with no preconditions immediately."
The recent reconciliation between Hamas and Fatah also came up during the speech. We have a right to wonder about Fatah's true intentions, Lieberman said.
"There is an organization with a pact calling for the destruction of Israel by way of Jihad which aspires for a world with no Jews," Lieberman said. The fact that "Fatah considers them a partner should teach us more about Fatah than about Hamas."
President Shimon Peres, who was at the event, also warned the crowd about the Palestinian reconciliation.
"We see within the Palestinians two camps – one that is ready to start peace negotiations, that Fatah camp, and a camp that isn't ready to denounce terror, the Hamas camp," the president said, adding that "democracy and terror can't co-exist."
"The two camps are currently trying to unite. It is not our business and we don’t want to get involved in their decision to unite. It is our business to make sure that the West bank doesn't turn into Gaza," Peres said.