Lieberman: PA must accept Israel as Jewish state
The cabinet is scheduled to discuss making Palestinian recognition of the Israel's right to exist as a Jewish state a precondition for any negotiations with the Palestinian Authority, Haaretz has learned.
"I aim to drag Prime Minister Ehud Olmert into demanding that the Palestinians recognize us as a Jewish state as a prerequisite for the international peace summit planned at Annapolis," Strategic Affairs Minister Avigdor Lieberman (Yisrael Beiteinu) told Haaretz yesterday. He added that the proposal's acceptance by the cabinet was "important and symbolic."
The discussion, which is set take place on Monday, will be convened at Lieberman's request.
According to the same sources, Lieberman told cabinet members of his request yesterday and wrote certain members to inform them of his demand. In his letter, Lieberman is said to have demanded that the proposed precondition be brought to a vote in the cabinet.
Yisrael Beiteinu is rumored to be planning a bill that would translate the precondition into law. The right-wing party's partners in writing the bill are said to have been Likud and the National Religious Party.
In parallel, Lieberman has, over the past couple of days, met with members of Olmert's ruling party Kadima, who are seen as particularly hawkish, Haaretz has learned. Otniel Schneller and Marina Soldkin are among the Kadima MKs with whom Lieberman has recently met.
Political analysts say Lieberman is working to consolidate a broad basis of agreement within the Knesset to head off any moves Olmert might be planning on the diplomatic front.
But Lieberman's proposal to discuss conditioning talks with the Palestinians on recognition of Israel's right to exist in fact corresponds with Olmert's own intentions.
Earlier this week, Olmert along with Defense Ministers Ehud Barak and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni demanded the Palestinians recognize Israel's legitimacy. But the Palestinians declined to comply with the demand the three statesman, who belong to Israel's Annapolis negotiating team, had made.
Palestinian Prime Minister Salem Fayad said at a television interview last night that "Israel can ask all it want, but it will not receive Palestinian recognition."
Political analysts postulate that although Olmert is interested in conditioning talks on acceptance of Israel's right to exist, he will nonetheless seek to prevent this demand from becoming cemented in the form a of a government resolution. If the proposal is accepted, the analysts say, it might precipitate a crisis with the Palestinian leadership or limit Olmert's moves and ability to maneuver at the summit.
The cooperation of Yisrael Beiteinu, which is Kadima's partner in the coalition, with the Likud opposition party has become increasingly apparent in recent days.
This cooperation expressed itself in a number of bills that Likud and Yisrael Beiteinu recently submitted. One of these bills was approved yesterday in a preliminary reading. The bill proposed that any amendment to the basic law on Jerusalem would require a majority of 80 MKs rather than usual 61. The bill was submitted by MK Gideon Sa'ar of Likud and supported by Yisrael Beiteinu.