Israel’s ultra-Zionist Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman on Sunday questioned on Israeli radio if President Mahmud Abbas represents all Palestinians, given his lack of authority in the Gaza Strip.
He called the Palestinian Authority ‘a bunch of terrorists,’ adding that there is ‘no chance of reaching peace with the Palestinians in the coming 20 years’.
Abbas, in an interview with a Kuwaiti newspaper on Sunday, said that the Netanyahu government ‘has not presented anything positive so far.’
Lieberman added: ‘Our Palestinian partner Abu Mazen (Abbas) is problematic. He does not represent Gaza and his legitimacy in the West Bank is in doubt.’
‘We don’t have to buy an entry ticket for talks,’ Lieberman said of the Palestinian demand that peace negotiations can only resume if there is a total freeze on Israeli settlement activity in the occupied West Bank.
‘National honour is an important value in the Middle East, and the time for obsequious attitudes is over. We have no need to adopt false pretences in a bid to please,’ Lieberman said.
Lieberman has also warned Abbas against ending security cooperation with Israel and said Tel Aviv had made enough gestures to the Palestinian Authority president.
‘We’ve made a series of gestures to Abbas, including Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s policy speech at Bar Ilan, the removal of West Bank roadblocks, the settlement construction freeze and allowing him to hold the Fatah conference in Bethlehem,’ he said.
‘I have heard Abbas recently threatening to end security cooperation with Israel,’ he continued on Israeli FM. ‘He’s the only one who would lose out from that, both personally and from the point of view of the PA.
‘On the contrary; there is a limit to hypocrisy. You can’t speak of a new era and at the same time sentence to death those who sell land to Jews, a sentence signed by Abbas.’
Lieberman also criticised the conduct of several Israeli ambassadors stationed around the world.
At an ambassadors’ conference held at the Foreign Ministry, Lieberman told a shocked audience that he ‘has seen that some ambassadors identify themselves with the other side to such an extent that they are all the time trying to justify and explain the position of the other side.’
‘The era of grovelling is over,’ Lieberman said.
He opened the conference with a tirade against Turkey, the Palestinians and European countries, and concluded it by reprimanding Israeli diplomats.
The problem with Israeli diplomacy over the years, Lieberman argued, is that it does not do enough to preserve the ‘honour of the State of Israel’.
Unnamed officials in the ministry assessed that Lieberman was directing his remarks especially at Gaby Levy, posted in Turkey, who is making efforts to mend ties between Ankara and Tel Aviv.
Turkey has issued severe criticisms of Israel since Operation Cast Lead in the Gaza Strip last winter, and the phrasing of some of the statements by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan shocked Israeli officials.
Lieberman opposes Turkey resuming its role as mediator between Israel and Syria in indirect peace talks and said it would not be so long as he remains in his position.
Netanyahu on the other hand has said that the conditions for resuming negotiations with the Palestinians are reaching their conclusion, and spoke favourably of the need to reach a peace agreement and establish a demilitarised Palestinian state alongside a Jewish State of Israel.
Meanwhile, a spokeswoman for Israeli president Shimon Peres acknowledged on Sunday that the president had spoken on a number of occasions with Abbas since Netanyahu took office in March, the Jerusalem Post said.
The official said it was ‘premature’ to talk about whether Abbas had agreed to attend a tripartite summit with Netanyahu and Mubarak, the Egyptian president.
Abbas continues to refuse to sit down and talk with Netanyahu. He has said all that the Netanyahu government was doing was ‘negative’ and what it was doing in eastern Jerusalem was ‘unacceptable.’
A spokesman for Netanyahu could not confirm that Netanyahu was using Peres as a conduit to Abbas.
Abbas was set to meet Egyptian President Husni Mubarak on Monday on the ‘peace’ process. Mubarak will brief Abbas on the outcome of his talks with Netanyahu last week.
Abbas had met on Sunday in Sharm el-Sheikh with Gen Omar Suleiman, director of Egypt’s General Intelligence Service, and discussed with him the prospects of resuming talks with Israel and efforts to reconcile Fatah and Hamas.
The Israeli media speculated that the PA chief held a secret meeting with an ‘unidentified important personality’ in Egypt, or with Hamas’ politburo chief Khaled Mishaal, who is currently visiting Saudi Arabia.
Following a meeting with Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal, Mishaal blamed Israel for delaying negotiations over the exchange of hundreds of Palestinian prisoners for captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit.
Mishaal said: ‘The Israeli position keeps changing. They take one step forward and two back.’
After the Abbas-Mubarak meeting, Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit and Suleiman will travel to Washington for talks with the Obama administration on advancing the peace process.
The US administration is making efforts to convince Abbas to agree to the resumption of peace talks through a series of goodwill gestures on the part of Israel – including the release of prisoners and the transfer of territory under Israel’s security control (Area B) to Palestinian security control (Area A).
Abbas has thus far refused to renew the talks as long as Israel refuses to institute a complete freeze on West Bank settlement building that would include East Jerusalem.
As Abbas embarks on his round of talks in Egypt, his Prime Minister Salam Fayyad said the future Palestinian state will be ‘free of fences and of settlements’.
In a conference held near Ramallah, Fayyad urged the international community to intervene in order to ‘force Israel to stop ignoring international law and the Palestinians’ rights’.
He stressed that ‘we will not agree to the agreements of the past anymore, it is time for the transition period to come to an end’.
On Monday, the Israeli occupation forces issued a statement declaring they decided to replace regular combat troops in permanent positions in the West Bank with reserve troops, the Israeli press revealed. The move aimed at allowing combat troops to move faster to front lines in case of any ‘eventuality’ in the future.
It will strengthen the combat unit garrisoning in the northern front line, close to the borders that separate Lebanon from the Palestinian occupied territories, and the southern front line near the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip.
The 10 battalions of the reserve unit will be deployed across the West Bank and the army will finalise the redeployment plan which is based on the lessons drawn from the July, 2006 war on Lebanon within a few days.
The plan, dubbed ‘regulars to the front line, reserves to the territories’, has been the focus of a recent secret meeting between the IDF top commanders and political leaders.
It added the army is ready ‘to respond to any potential security threat or missile attack from the Gaza Strip, Lebanon, Syria or Iran.’