Avigdor Lieberman.
Avigdor Lieberman. Photo by Olivier Fitoussi
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GPO
Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman (right) and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry in Washington in December. Photo by GPO

Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said Sunday he would not support any peace agreement that does not include the exchange of Israeli Arab land and population, calling that demand a "basic condition" that he has already clarified to the international community.

"When I talk about land and population exchange, I mean the Little Triangle and Wadi Ara," Lieberman said, referring to the predominantly Arab regions in central and northern Israel. "This is not a transfer. Nobody will be expelled or banished, but the border will move to the other side of Route 6."

"I will not support any peace deal that will allow the return of even one Palestinian refugee to Israel," he said. "Because if we leave the right of return on the table, all pressure will be on this subject."

"When there is a Palestinian state, it will absorb hundreds of thousands of refugees from Syria and Lebanon, because these states will simply expel all of these refugees," he added.

Lieberman told the diplomats that U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry's proposal to push forward peace talks was the best offer Israel could possibly receive. "Every alternative offer we will get from the international community will not be better than Kerry's offer," he said.

"I support and inclusive and real political arrangement, even with all of the doubt in my heart," he added. "Discussion with the Palestinians is important, even when we don't agree with each other."

Earlier in his speech, Lieberman emphasized how significant he considers Israel's ties with the United States: "Cooperation with the U.S. is the basis on which all Israeli foreign policy is built," he said.

Lieberman told Kerry during a meeting on Friday that he greatly appreciates the efforts he is investing in brokering a solution to the conflict and promoting calm in the region, the Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

Kerry was scheduled to leave Israel for Jordan and Saudi Arabia on Sunday morning where he will brief leaders on the Israeli-Palestinian talks as part of American efforts to ensure Arab support for the peace efforts. Martin Indyk, the U.S. special envoy for Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, will fly to Cairo to brief Egyptian leaders. Next weekend Kerry is due to meet a deelgation of Arab League foreign ministers. 

Since arriving in Israel on Thursday, Kerry has held three meetings with each of the leaders, with each meeting lasting more than three hours. The U.S. secretary of state is seeking to reach a framework agreement between Israel and the Palestinians which would address all core issues – borders, security, Jerusalem, refugees, mutual recognition, the finality of the conflict and demands.