Nineteen years after the signing of the Oslo Accords between Israel and the PLO [signed on Sept. 13 1993, it provided for the first Palestinian interim government], Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman said that he had instructed his office to launch a comprehensive undertaking to review the accords — particularly their implementation on the ground, as well as the relations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority more broadly.
Raising a toast to usher in the Jewish New Year [Sept. 16] at the Foreign Ministry, Liberman said: “It’s clear that the Oslo Accords were the most abortive diplomatic step ever taken since the foundation of the state. We need to reevaluate the accords, do a reality check, stop averting our eyes from the facts, and make the necessary tough decisions. We need to reevaluate the relationship with the Palestinian Authority.”
In a Facebook posting, Liberman reiterated his stance. “Today we mark 19 years since the signing of the Oslo Accords, and we don’t have to wait for the 20th year in order to learn the lessons and evaluate them,” the foreign minister said. “I understand the apprehension of looking reality in the face, but we need to reevaluate [the situation] and take a fresh approach to assess the nature of our relationship with the Palestinian Authority. Even if we were to withdraw to the 1967 borders and evacuate settlements — we would see more terror and more delegitimization [of the State of Israel].”
A Foreign Ministry source reckons that Liberman has not disavowed the idea of a two-state solution and the establishment of a Palestinian state, which he has recognized in public speeches in the past, nor is he seeking to regain Israeli control of the areas in Judea and Samaria that were handed over to the Palestinians. However, Liberman is believed to be striving to present a new strategic model for the relationship between Israel and the Palestinians that would supplant the Oslo Accords.
Liberman also believes that it will be impossible to reach a permanent status agreement with the Palestinians in the coming years given the discord between the parties over Jerusalem and the right of return.
What the Foreign Minister proposes by way of an alternative to the Oslo Accords is a long-term interim agreement. In the past, Liberman had drawn up such an interim agreement that would enhance economic and security cooperation between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. In lieu of a permanent status agreement and the establishment of an independent state, Liberman’s plan seeks to bolster the Palestinian economy by providing economic incentives and by increasing freedom of travel in Judea and Samaria.
What remains unclear is whether Liberman’s directive (to his staff) was made under advisement with the prime minister. However, according to a number of Israeli and foreign diplomatic officials, the chances of establishing a Palestinian state in Judea and Samaria are becoming increasingly flimsier, mostly due to the extensive construction in the settlements. Some Israeli officials believe that during the UN General Assembly in New York [to open Sept. 26], (President) Abu Mazen (Mahmoud Abbas) will request that the Palestinian Authority be upgraded to an “Observer State” status. However, Abu Mazen will wait on the vote until after the US presidential election on Nov. 6.
In his address yesterday at the Foreign Ministry, Liberman lashed out at the Palestinian Authority’s president. “There’s a fundamental mistake in reference to Abu Mazen and his regime. The Palestinians blame the State of Israel for everything, just as those corrupt regimes in the Arab countries have always done. Abu Mazen is incapable of keeping the order in the Palestinian Authority. He and his regime are living on borrowed time. He has lost all credibility with the Palestinian people.”
Anger at the Palestinian Authority
Liberman also leveled criticism at Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s decision to transfer an advance payment of NIS 250 million ($63 million) of tax money to the Palestinian Authority to help it deal with the social protest and the financial crisis. “[We] must not make the same mistake of resuscitating and maintaining rotten regimes like those in the Arab countries. What happened there will happen to Abu Mazen’s regime. It will collapse too; it’s just a matter of time.”
Liberman’s statements against the Palestinian Authority’s president incurred anger in Ramallah, where the president’s spokesman, Nabil Abu Rudeineh, responded: “We can no longer accept such statements. Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is requested to take a stand. It would be unacceptable for the Israeli government to claim that Liberman’s statements do not represent it.” Talking to WAFA, the official Palestinian news agency, Abu Rudeineh added: “Such statements are indicative of a defeatist personality, whom the world refuses to host or cooperate with.”
Abu Mazen, incidentally, took Liberman’s personal attack a tad more lightly, calling (Israeli) President Shimon Peres yesterday [Sept. 13] to wish him and the people of Israel a happy new year. Peres thanked the Palestinian Authority’s president and said: “I know the past year was a rough one, but we mustn’t give up.”
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