Middle East peace unlikely soon

2010-08-25 21:13

Jerusalem -Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said on Wednesday that renewed peace talks with the Palestinians were unlikely to get anywhere within the one-year time frame set by the US.

"It's clear that the two sides are so different - in content, in approach - that it's hard to talk about a peace agreement within a year," Lieberman told Israeli public radio, adding that he saw no point in extending a settlement freeze due to expire next month.

The two sides, due to relaunch direct talks in Washington next week after a 20-month hiatus, have been negotiating since 1993, when they signed interim accords after secret peace talks in Norway, but have yet to reach an agreement leading to Palestinian statehood.

"What have we been doing for the 17 years since Oslo?" Lieberman asked rhetorically.

"Suddenly we're going to reach a peace agreement within a year? I think that the more we can lower expectations the healthier it will be."

Lieberman said Palestinian insistence that talks cannot proceed if Israel continues building in the occupied West bank and east Jerusalem were part of "difficult preconditions" likely to torpedo talks from the outset.

"Anyone coming with an 'all or nothing' attitude will end up at the end of the day with nothing," he said.

Freeze on new building permits

At US urging the Israeli government declared a 10-month moratorium on issuing new building permits for settler homes in the West Bank, but excluded east Jerusalem, which Israel captured, then annexed in 1967.

The international community does not distinguish between Jewish housing developments in east Jerusalem or in the West Bank, considering them all to be illegal settlements.

Lieberman said the freeze was a major concession but that the Palestinians had failed to reciprocate, campaigning against Israel in United Nations institutions, boycotting settlement products and preaching hostility in their schools and media.

"There is no reason to continue to freeze settlement," he told the radio. "We've done enough and we got nothing in return."

But Lieberman pledged that he would be prepared to give up his own home in the West Bank settlement of Nokdim in order to secure genuine and lasting peace.

He said there were currently about 2 000 homes in the West Bank which had all the necessary planning and building permits and were ready to begin construction on September 26.

There were a further 1 600 housing units in the pipeline in east Jerusalem, he added.