Lieberman to Olmert: Dialogue, Not Another Withdrawal

MK Avigdor Lieberman emerged from a 50-minute meeting with Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to estimate the chances of Yisrael Beiteinu joining the coalition at 50-50. At the meeting, which focused mainly on diplomatic issues, Lieberman reiterated his unqualified opposition to the convergence plan. "No convergence and no withdrawal," he told Haaretz. "I am not prepared to give anything, but rather to exchange and receive something in return. However we are not a party of 'not one bit' and there is room for dialogue," he said.

The main interface between Olmert and Lieberman is in the desire to achieve permanent borders, but the question is what are those borders and how are they to be arrived at. According to Lieberman, he is willing to work toward permanent, internationally recognized borders with settlements, including the Jordan Valley and the Golan Heights, in Israel's hands. To achieve this, he says, negotiations must begin immediately with the Quartet, while the Hamas government is still irrelevant.

However, Lieberman told Olmert that if a Palestinian government emerged, which Israel could talk to, it would be possible in the future to discuss border changes based on the demographic needs of both sides. "I don't see any unilateral withdrawal without getting something in return, which could be international recognition of permanent borders. Without this, Israel will not reap any profit from the move, but rather the transfer of territory to Hamas so that in the future they will be able to launch a Qassam rocket from Herodion to the Knesset."

According to Lieberman, Olmert mainly listened rather than responded.

Lieberman also brought up the subject of civil marriage and the new citizenship law, two important issues for his party.

With regard to Amir Peretz's repeated rejections of a coalition partnership with him, Lieberman told Haaretz, "there is no moral dimension to discounting a partnership with us. I believe we are being discounted for electoral considerations only. Peretz sees the Arabs as his important stronghold in the party, as in the Histadrut, and that's the whole explanation," Lieberman said.

However the Yisrael Beiteinu chairman also said Olmert would have to choose, whereas Yisrael Beiteinu was prepared to remain in the opposition. Lieberman and Olmert promised to keep the lines of communication open.