Israel's Lieberman: No Negotiation Over Jerusalem

Lieberman: We didn't provoke anybody. I hear all the condemnations of Israel regarding so-called East Jerusalem. In the same week 60 people were killed in Pakistan in terror attacks. In every country around us there is bloodshed and tension. But everybody prefers to criticize Israel. I am waiting for the day when the German Bundestag debates the violation of human rights in Saudi Arabia.

SPIEGEL: But we are speaking to the Israeli foreign minister, not the Saudi one.

Lieberman: To put all the blame on Israel is hypocrisy. We are the only democracy in the Middle East. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict represent maybe 3 percent of all the conflicts in the region. Members of the United States Congress and US Senators tell us that, in their visits to the Gulf countries, Egypt, Saudi Arabia or Jordan, their Arab counterparts only very briefly mention the Palestinians, and that it is pure lip service. Ninety-five percent of the time they warn about the Iranian threat.

SPIEGEL: But at the moment everybody is speaking about Israel. The US is blaming your government for undermining the peace process and cancelled a visit of its special envoy George Mitchell.

Lieberman: Even between the best of friends mistakes and misunderstandings can happen. We never promised to stop building in Jerusalem. But the announcement during the visit of US Vice President Joe Biden was a mistake -- a bureaucratic mistake of the building committee in charge.

SPIEGEL: So you are only criticizing the timing but not the plan to expand existing settlements?

Lieberman: You must understand: It is not settlements. Sixty-five percent of the Jewish population of Jerusalem live in new neighborhoods that we started to build after the Six-Day War in 1967.

SPIEGEL: Even the Americans regard them as settlements. They lie beyond the '67 borders and that is a problem.

Lieberman: They lie beyond the '67 borders, but they are not small villages, but municipal neighbourhoods with tens of thousands of residents.

SPIEGEL: So your problem is even bigger!

Lieberman: It's not a problem, it's an integral part of our capital. We are not ready to negotiate about Jerusalem.

Part 2: 'We Expect the Americans To Put Pressure on the Palestinians'

SPIEGEL: On the one hand you are criticizing the Palestinians for setting pre-conditions, on the other hand you yourself refuse to talk about such a controversial core issue like Jerusalem.

Lieberman: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gave a speech at Bar-Ilan University, in which he recognized for the first time the two-state solution. That was a difficult decision for us; don't forget, this is a right-wing government. Secondly, we diminished the number of roadblocks and improved the access and movement for the Palestinians. By doing so, we created economic growth in the Palestinian cities of 8 percent. Thirdly, we undertook a moratorium in the settlements ...

SPIEGEL: ... to which you don't adhere: Just recently, Defense Minister Ehud Barak has given permission for 112 new apartments in the West Bank settlement of Beitar Illit.

Lieberman: Within one year we made many concessions in advance, but despite that the whole world says: "OK, that's good, but you must deliver more."

SPIEGEL: The US is now demanding further gestures from Israel following the crisis over the Jerusalem settlements. Will you deliver?

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