The upcoming visit of U.S. President Barack Obama will not succeed in reviving the peace process with Palestine, former Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said yesterday.
“The Palestinian issue has not progressed in the past four years, and it will not progress in the next four years either,” Lieberman said ahead of a swearing-in ceremony for Israel’s new government. U.S. President Barack Obama is expected to arrive in Israel tomorrow to discuss the renewal of the Middle East peace process.
Lieberman, the head of Yisrael Beitenu, which ran on a joint ticket with Likud in the Jan. 22 elections, said Israel would “emphatically oppose any attempt to reimpose a freeze in Israeli settlement,” Israeli daily Jerusalem Post reported.
“We are prepared to make gestures, but they cannot be unilateral,” Lieberman said. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has repeatedly said they would not return to peace talks with Israel unless there is a freeze on settlements.
Touching on a possible apology to Turkey for the 2010 Mavi Marmara raid, Lieberman reiterated his position that Israel could opt for the type of apology that the United States made to Pakistan after killing 24 Pakistani troops in air strikes in 2011. After the deadly incident, then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton spoke of her “deep regret” and told Pakistani Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar on the phone that “they are sorry for the losses suffered by the Pakistani military.”
However, he said good ties with Turkey were in the interest of both countries, adding that, even with the tensions in relations, the economic ties between the countries had grown over the past four years.
Bilateral relations between the formerly allied countries crumbled after Israeli troops stormed the Mavi Marmara aid ship in international waters in May 2010 to enforce a naval blockade of the Palestinian-run Gaza Strip, killing nine Turks in clashes with civilian activists on board.
Israel’s new coalition government includes many pro-settlement hardliners. Following more than 40 days of negotiations, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced March 16 that he had managed to piece together a new government with a majority of 68 within the 120-seat Parliament. Although the lineup includes Yesh Atid (19 seats) and Hatnuah (six seats), which want to renew peace talks, it is dominated by the hawkish Likud-Beitenu (31 seats) and its new national-religious ally, Jewish Home (12 seats), a far-right faction that is the party of choice for settlers.