SPIEGEL Interview with Avigdor Lieberman 'It Is a Clash of Civilizations'

REUTERS

By and

Part 2: 'We Expect the Americans To Put Pressure on the Palestinians'


SPIEGEL: On the one hand you are criticizing the Palestinians for setting pre-conditions, on the other hand you yourself refuse to talk about such a controversial core issue like Jerusalem.

Lieberman: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gave a speech at Bar-Ilan University, in which he recognized for the first time the two-state solution. That was a difficult decision for us; don't forget, this is a right-wing government. Secondly, we diminished the number of roadblocks and improved the access and movement for the Palestinians. By doing so, we created economic growth in the Palestinian cities of 8 percent. Thirdly, we undertook a moratorium in the settlements ...

SPIEGEL: ... to which you don't adhere: Just recently, Defense Minister Ehud Barak has given permission for 112 new apartments in the West Bank settlement of Beitar Illit.

Lieberman: Within one year we made many concessions in advance, but despite that the whole world says: "OK, that's good, but you must deliver more."

SPIEGEL: The US is now demanding further gestures from Israel following the crisis over the Jerusalem settlements. Will you deliver?

Lieberman: Within one year we have made many gestures towards the Palestinians. We expect the Americans to put pressure on the Palestinians to stop anti-Israeli activities in the international arena. The Palestinians have to withdraw their law suits against Israeli officers, stop the boycott of Israeli goods and all incitement. What incentives do we have for agreeing to further compromises?

SPIEGEL: Does the prospect of signing a peace treaty with the Palestinians mean nothing?

Lieberman: First of all we want security. The international community is making a strategic mistake. You cannot impose peace. First you have to provide security and prosperity, then you can bring about a comprehensive solution.

SPIEGEL: So in your view the negotiations with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas are useless?

Lieberman: No. We have to keep the political process alive. Talks are better than nothing. The problem is that we don't know whom Abbas represents. His Fatah party lost the elections in 2006. In 2007, Hamas took over power by force in the Gaza Strip.

SPIEGEL: Nineteen years after the peace process started in Madrid with indirect talks, you are again leading "proximity talks." US Special Envoy Mitchell wants to commute the five kilometers between Jerusalem and Ramallah. Why does this have to be so complicated?

Lieberman: We were for direct talks from the beginning, whether in Jerusalem or Ramallah. It is the Palestinians who object to it. And they feel strengthened because the West constantly speaks about the settlements.

SPIEGEL: Do you think the Americans are naïve?

Lieberman: I don't know whether they are naïve. I believe in facts, and they are: Despite the settlements, we signed two peace agreements -- one with Egypt and one with Jordan. And although both Ehud Barak and Ehud Olmert were ready to evacuate most of the settlements and withdraw to the '67 border, the Palestinians refused to sign. With the Oslo agreements we gave up half of the West Bank ...

SPIEGEL: ... It wasn't you, but rather the leftist government of then-Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin.

Lieberman: Yes, I was against it and I am sorry to say that I was right. For 16 years we made concessions, but the Palestinians have only rejected them. And this despite the fact that on the Israeli side there were all these nice guys: Rabin, Peres, Barak, Olmert, Sharon. Not such bad guys like me ...

SPIEGEL: Sharon, a nice guy?

Lieberman: He vacated the settlements in the Gaza Strip.

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