Defense Chief: Israel Closer to an Agreement With the Palestinians Than Ever

Avigdor Lieberman says the Arab states ‘have realized that their problem isn’t Israel’

Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman at the Tel Hashomer army base in March 2017.
David Bachar

Israel is closer than ever to reaching an agreement with the Palestinians, Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman said Thursday, adding that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “is making a very great effort.”

“I hope this possibility will come true,” Lieberman told Channel 2 television.

“The Arab states have realized that their problem isn’t Israel; Israel can be a solution to the problem,” he said. “If someone puts an agreement on the table that includes an agreement with all the moderate Arab states, including opening embassies, commercial relations and direct flights, I assume it would win a sweeping majority both in the Knesset and among the people.”

Last week Haaretz reported that the Trump administration is considering drafting a document that would lay down principles for solving all the core issues of the conflict and serve as the basis for Israel-Palestinian negotiations on a final-status deal. But the White House has yet to decide how it would try to advance the peace process, and the option of drafting a set of principles has been a subject of controversy among the various people involved in the issue.

Two days after Trump visited the region last month, his envoy for the peace process, Jason Greenblatt, visited Jerusalem and Ramallah to meet with Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. An Israeli source briefed on the details of these talks said Greenblatt presented the various ideas the administration is considering for renewing the negotiations and asked both leaders to tell him which ideas they prefer, how they would like the process to be conducted and what they think the outcome should be.

A few days later, Netanyahu hinted at the possibility of a document dictating the principles of the negotiations. “The current administration has a strong desire to put something on the table,” he told Knesset members from his Likud party. “We have many important positions of our own, but this doesn’t mean they agree to what we say.”