Interview with FM Liberman 13 July 2009
"peace cannot be forced upon anyone; peace must be built."
Translation provided by Minister of Foreign Affairs
Avigdor Liberman in an interview on Reshet Bet (Radio Two) on the program
Haboker HaZeh (This Morning)
Aryeh Golan: We have with us this morning Minister of Foreign Affairs
Avigdor Liberman. Good morning, sir.
Minister Avigdor Liberman: Good morning.
Golan: So, in addition to the massive, continuous, nonstop American pressure
to halt all construction in [West Bank] settlements, Europe is now
Javier Solana, that the U.N. unilaterally announce the establishment of a
Palestinian state, should the negotiations between Israel and the
Palestinians fail. It would seem that all your visits to Europe, and the
Prime Minister's visits, and all the talks you held, have not had any effect
on the person in charge of the EU's foreign policy, and he is now talking
about a double agreement.
Minister Liberman: Actually, I don't think this truly represents the stand
taken by the European Union. I think the statement should be construed in
the context of a very human situation. Javier Solana is about to retire, he
will be leaving his position by the end of the year, someone else will
replace him. Like anyone else in a similar situation, he too is attempting
to make a few statements, to leave a legacy, to be remembered for some
unique accomplishment. But when push comes to shove, everyone knows that the
existing agreements in this region were never achieved by coercion but only
by direct communication between the two parties. We have the successful
precedents of the peace with Egypt and peace with Jordan, both of which were
achieved only by direct talks between the two parties. Therefore we hold on
to the concept that peace cannot be forced upon anyone; peace must be built.
It is up to us to build peace, it cannot be achieved by coercion.
Golan: So what you are saying is that neither the United States nor Europe
will support such a forced solution.
Minister Liberman: Only recently we heard President Obama speaking in great
detail about the conflict in the Middle East, and he too said that there is
no substitute for direct talks between Israel and the Palestinians, and that
nothing can be accomplished by coercion. So far our entire policy and
practice in our dealings with the UN and Europe have been based on this
concept. Therefore I repeat that, with all due respect to Solana, his
statement was the type one makes before retiring or stepping down; one
should not read too much into it.
Golan: In fact we're waiting to say to him, "Goodbye, Javier".
Minister Liberman: We're not waiting for anyone, we do not get involved,
especially not in what happens in the European parliament; there have been
elections there and there will be significant changes. However, what is
interesting in this context are Abu Mazen's statements. Here we are
witnessing an interesting case: the more Abu Mazen's authority and
legitimacy decline, the more he increases his demands and the more rigid he
becomes in his attitude.
Golan: You're referring to the statement that the Palestinians will not give
up on the issue of the right of return.
Minister Liberman: I'm referring to everything, to his entire speech. First
and foremost one has to understand the basis for Abu Mazen's legitimacy.
After all, when we signed an agreement with the Palestinian Authority, we
signed it with an administration that represents all Palestinians. Today you
have Fatah-land in Judea and Samaria and Hamastan in Gaza. And who exactly
does Abu Mazen represent? Only half the people, at best.
Golan: In that case, you'd have to say Hamas is the representative, because
they won the last elections.
Minister Liberman: I said neither is representative. We will never make a
deal in which, as it were, we pay full price for an asset but receive only
half an asset.
The other point that is important to understand is that, according to the
Palestinian Constitution, in the second half of 2009 there should have been
Golan: Is it desirable for us that they hold elections? You know what was
the outcome of the last elections.
Minister Liberman: I don't see elections as happening even in the second
half of 2010. But whether you adhere to the constitution of the Palestinian
Authority that you represent or not - if you're in power without elections,
and if you in fact represent barely one half of the population, then your
legitimacy is doubtful, as is your demand for a total freeze on the
settlements. After all, it's been sixteen years since we signed the Oslo
accords and undertook those commitments. During all that time Israel has
been negotiating with the Palestinians and has always continued to build in
existing settlements in Judea and Samaria.
Golan: So far this has been an American demand. What you are in fact saying
is that Abu Mazen cannot be a partner in talks since he does not have
legitimacy as Chairman of the Palestinian Authority; he was not elected now.
Minister Liberman: The way I see it, the demand for a freeze is not
legitimate either. As you may recall, even while Abu Mazen was negotiating
with the Olmert and Livni government, Israel continued to build in existing
settlements in Judea and Samaria. The same goes for his new demand; or for
his advice to Netanyahu, to replace Liberman with Tzipi Livni. Great advice.
Golan: Perhaps he got the idea from President Sarkozy; you know - he may
have adopted the suggestion Sarkozy made to Prime Minister Netanyahu when
Minister Liberman: As far as I'm concerned, this is a compliment. Obviously,
it is clear to Abu Mazen that he is dealing with a government that will not
give up on Israel's interests, one that demonstrates sang froid and staying
power. Therefore all of Mazen's demands are simply a reflection of his
distress and inability to conduct negotiations and spearhead a true
Golan: Let's get back to Europe for a moment, sir. Regarding Britain,
there's a main headline in today's Haaretz - "U.K. hits Israel with partial
arms embargo over Gaza war". Britain has been supplying the Israeli Navy
with weapons and will now stop this supply. Do these sanctions take you by
Minister Liberman: Look, I can't comment on this specific case. Israel has
survived through many embargoes in the past, such as the French embargo
after the Six Day War, and even an American embargo in President Reagan's
days. We've had our difficult times with different countries, and we've
always managed somehow. I wouldn't get too worked up over this or that
Golan: Well, perhaps you're taking a different news item more to heart
today. There's an item in today's Yedioth Aharonoth about something going on
in the Syrian channel. Some effort made by the United States: an envoy named
Fred Hoff, George Mitchell's Chief of Staff, will come here and will present
a map that was drawn up in Washington and that includes a proposal for
borders between Israel and Syria and security arrangements for the Golan
Heights; and from here Hoff will continue to Damascus. Is anything really
happening on this dormant front, as far as you know?
Minister Liberman: In this case, too, our position is very clear. I have
said on several occasions, including on Radio Two, that we are ready for
direct negotiations with the Syrians anytime, anywhere, and with no
preconditions. We have never made any commitment of the type we heard
yesterday. Only yesterday the Syrian foreign minister made very clear,
unequivocal demands that Israel go back to the '67 borders. We do not intend
to do so, there will be no such commitment. If they want to negotiate - we'd
be more than happy to oblige; if they insist on preconditions - they will
have to wait as long as it takes.
Golan: To conclude, please tell me, sir, have you had an invitation from
Minister Liberman: It's no secret that we are constantly negotiating with
Egypt. Only yesterday we met with the Egyptians. Next week the director
general of the foreign ministry is going there. The wide scope of our
contacts with Egypt has not been diminished or harmed in any way. On the
contrary - I think that on many levels, some higher and some lower, but on
all levels and in a variety of channels there is ongoing communication with
Golan: But you have not received an invitation yet.
Minister Liberman: Well, you know, I'm not the one dispensing invitations.
But like many others, I and my staff do our work, and I think the public
appreciates it. Despite this and that commentary by the media, everything
we've seen so far in surveys, including on Radio Two and the Israel
Broadcasting Authority, points to satisfaction with our work in the
government, with my work in the Foreign Ministry; it's all beyond what we
may have expected.
Golan: Minister Liberman, I thank you very much for this conversation. Have
a good morning.
Minister Liberman: Good morning.