Israel won't freeze settlements: Lieberman

2013-01-24 14:00
Israeli former foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman. (File, AFP)

Israeli former foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman. (File, AFP)

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Jerusalem - A new Israeli government led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will not freeze construction of Jewish settlements in the West Bank, former foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman said on Thursday.

Lieberman's nationalist Israel Beteinu and Netanyahu's right-wing Likud party ran jointly in Tuesday's election and won most seats in the 120-strong parliament.

"We are not willing to accept any dictations on the issue of a freeze," Lieberman told Israel Radio. "There won't be a freeze, not in Jerusalem and not in Judea and Samaria," he added, using the Biblical terms for the West Bank.

Peace talks have been frozen since September 2010 after Netanyahu refused a demand by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to extend a partial 10-month settlement freeze in the West Bank. Netanyahu has said he is ready to negotiate without conditions.

Lieberman said a Netanyahu-led government would focus on socio-economic issues, which were a main theme in the election and gave rise to a new, centrist party that campaigned on a platform of reducing the high cost of living.

'Internal problems first'

Yair Lapid, a former television anchorman whose Yesh Atid party came in second with 19 seats, has emerged as a key player in future coalition talks. He wants to scrap exemption from military service for ultra-Orthodox Jews and to renew peace talks with Palestinians.

"The agenda must be to first of all deal with internal problems," Lieberman said.

"At the end of the day, we really want to reach here an agreement for peace," Lieberman said, "But if the other side doesn't want this, that's its problem."

Netanyahu's previous coalition government included right-wing and nationalist parties opposed to a settlement freeze in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, land the Palestinians want for a future state.

Read more on:    avigdor lieberman  |  benjamin netanyahu  |  israel  |  palestine  |  middle east peace

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