Lieberman: No Return to Kerry Framework, New Elections Preferable

Foreign minister says Palestinians engaged in 'real clear blackmail' and that he opposes any release of 'Palestinian terrorists.'

Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman.
Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman.Credit: Olivier Fitussi

Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said Sunday that he opposes any return to the “package deal” proposed by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and that he and his party would support new elections instead.

Speaking at the annual Jerusalem Post conference in New York, Lieberman said that he opposes any release of “Palestinian terrorists.” He said that recent Palestinian steps are “real, clear blackmail” to which Israel cannot agree.

“Everyone should understand how serious was the Palestinian decision to violate all our understandings, despite the fact that we were willing to discuss every issue.”

Lieberman said there were three options on the table at this stage: 1. The Kerry “package deal,” including release of “terrorists,” which he opposes; 2. A new Israeli coalition, which he doesn’t view as realistic; and 3. new elections, which he prefers over the other two options.

Possibly preempting the new elections, Lieberman lambasted his cabinet colleague Naftali Bennet’s proposal to demand that Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas be prosecuted at an international tribunal for war crimes. “It’s not always necessary to speak, to make noise. I prefer efficiency,” he said.

Lieberman described international criticism of “every new house in the settlements” as hypocrisy and anti-Semitism, especially given the turmoil in the Middle East and the carnage in Syria. Lieberman said that Israel “can handle” the international boycott movement which, he claimed, “was being exaggerated for domestic political purposes.”

On Ukraine, Lieberman said that Israel had “worked quietly” in order to ensure that the Jewish community be kept out of the conflict. He maintained a neutral tone towards the conflict, saying that Israel “respects both sides” and that it needs cooperation between the United States and Russia in order to handle the challenges of nuclear weapons in Iran and chemical weapons in Syria.

Lieberman’s harsh rhetoric came in response to attempts by the U.S. administration to put pressure on Israel to show restraint in face of the Palestinian request to the international organizations and to have Israel carry out the fourth stage of releasing Palestinian prisoners, said a senior Israeli official.

With this action, the official said, Abbas has stopped playing the game and now all sorts of people are telling us he cannot retreat and there is no choice and we must continue with the prisoner release. Lieberman has made it clear he is in favor of continued negotiations with the Palestinians, but not while being threatened and extorted, he added.

“Lieberman explained that as long as [Abbas] does not reverse himself from the move he made, the deal to release prisoners is irrelevant,” he said. “Only if the Palestinians reverse themselves can we return to the deal,” he added.

Another reason for Lieberman’s statements, he said, were reports he received that Economy Minister Naftali Bennett was interested in causing Justice Minister Tzipi Livni to quit the government and to bring Shas in instead of her Hatnuah party.

“Lieberman wants to make it clear mostly to Bennett that such an option is not relevant and he should not try even to start and sell it to people,” said the official.

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