Thursday, November 26, 2009
Israel rejects Palestinian rejection of peace moves
Maybe Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman was only kidding Thursday when he said Israel was more interested in winning international support for its efforts toward peace with Palestinians living in the West Bank than what the Palestinians themselves think. Or, maybe, just maybe, his remarks reflected Israel's frustration with the Palestinian Authority's blanket refusal to begin talks on a peace settlement until Israel stops building homes on land the Palestinians want for their own country. "The last thing that should interest us is the Palestinians' concern," Lieberman said on Israel Radio, according to the Reuters international news service. "Before the Palestinian issue, what should interest us is our friends in the world. We spoke to them and most said, 'help us to help you.'" Lieberman's statement was in reaction to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas' outright rejection of Israel's announcement of a 10-month partial freeze of settlement activity in the West Bank. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu offered the partial freeze in an effort to get the PA to agree to restart peace negotiations. But Abbas, who is threatening to leave government if and when his current term ends, demands a total freeze on building on lands claimed by his stateless people including East Jerusalem, which Israel captured in 1967. Israel has annexed East Jerusalem and made it part of its capital, but most of the world's nations have not accepted it. Yet Western nations lined up behind Netanyahu's proposal despite Palestinian objections, Reuters said. French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner called Israel's move "a positive contribution to peace, and British Foreign Secretary David Miliband urged that Israel's proposal "become a step toward resuming meaningful negotiations." Israel's chief backer, the United States, has called for the resumption of negotiations without preconditions. But Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat told Israel's Army Radio that Israel's proposal was merely a bid to deflect pressure from the United States, Reuters said. "At the end of the day, Netanyahu needs to make peace with us, the Palestinians, he doesn't need to make peace with Americans," Erekat said. "If that's what he wants, that is his business. The last I know, Washington is 6,000 miles from Jerusalem, while Jericho is 67." More than 500,000 Israelis live in the West Bank and East Jerusalem alongside 2.7 million Palestinians, Reuters said.