New foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman said on Wednesday that Israel was changing its policies on the peace process and was not bound by commitments it made at a U.S.-sponsored conference to pursue creation of a Palestinian state.
During an official ceremony at the President's Residence on Wednesday, Lieberman said: "There is one document that obligates us - and that's not the Annapolis conference, it has no validity.
His speech was made in reference to a 2007 gathering in Annapolis, Maryland attended by participants from about 40 countries, including Saudi Arabia, Syria and Indonesia.
"The Israeli government never ratified Annapolis, nor did Knesset," Lieberman said. He said that instead, Israel would follow a course charted by the U.S.-backed peace road map.
Lieberman said later that the declaration was not an empty statement, but "an expression of a change in Israel's policy regarding the peace process," Channel 10 reported.
The peformance-based plan made the creation of a Palestinian state contingent on the Palestinians reining in militants. It also obligated Israel to freeze all settlement activity on Palestinian land.
The joint statement drafted at the 2007 conference, which was hosted by then U.S. president George Bush, declared: "We express our determination to bring an end to bloodshed, suffering and decades of conflict between our peoples, to usher in a new era of peace, based on freedom, security, justice, dignity, respect and mutual recognition, to propagate a culture of peace and non-violence, and to confront terrorism and incitement, whether committed by Palestinians or Israelis.
"In furtherance of the goal of two states, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace and security: We agree to immediately launch good faith bilateral negotiations in order to conclude a peace treaty resolving all outstanding issues, including all core issues, without exception, as specified in previous agreements.
A source in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's party confirmed Wednesday that his new government intended to distance itself from U.S.-sponsored understandings on working towards a Palestinian state.
Asked about ultra-nationalist Lieberman's remark that Israel was no longer bound by the 2007 framework, the source replied: "There is no problem here. He [Lieberman] is distancing himself from the Annapolis label, as the government intends to do."
Hadash MK Afu Aghbaria, meanwhile, urged the international community to impose a diplomatic embargo on Israel in the wake of Lieberman;s statements.
"It isn't surprising that a racist foreign minister would produce such vehement suggestions, only a day after the new government was formed," Aghbaria said.
A senior U.S. official said in response to the remarks that the Obama administration remains committed to a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
"It remains our view that a two-state solution, Israelis and Palestinians living side by side in peace and security, is in our interests and in the region's interests," the official, accompanying President Barack Obama to a G20 summit in London told Reuters.
"We have full confidence in, and will continue to support, the government of Israel, and we will work together for a durable and lasting peace in the region," the State Department said later Wednesday.
"As for statements made [by Lieberman], or comments made, I point you to Prime Minister Netanyahu's comments, that he will work for peace with the Palestinians and peace in the region," State Department said.
"We support the two-state solution, and we will continue to work for that. Whether or not the final position of the Israeli government as they come into discussions with us is one way or another - we haven't heard their proposals yet."
"Many of our policies are under review. The two-state solution, however, is not one that is under review," the State Department added.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas responded to the swearing-in of Benjamin Netanyahu's government by saying: "We want to tell the world that this man doesn't believe in peace and therefore we cannot deal with him... the world should put pressure on him."
It was the Palestinian president's first public comment about Netanyahu since he took office. His statement, made at an Arab summit in Qatar, was reported by the government-run Palestinian news agency in the West Bank.
A senior Palestinian official said the U.S. must act to enforce a two-state solution in accordance with the joint declaration drafted at the summit.
"This is a challenge to the international community and to the United States that adopted the two-state solution," said Nabil Abu Rdainah, spokesman for Abbas.
"The United States should take a clear position against this policy before things get worse," he added. "The international community should respond to these provocations that may undermine security and stability in this region."
Meanwhile, opposition leader Tzipi Livni said earlier Wednesday that she would back the new government when it is right and attack it when it is wrong.
Livni made the comments following the ceremony Wednesday in which Benjamin Netanyahu officially assumed the premiership. The ceremony took place for the first time at the President's Residence, a move aimed at giving added symbolism to the office of president.
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