Israel's Lieberman: No Negotiation Over Jerusalem

Lieberman: Within one year we have made many gestures towards the Palestinians. We expect the Americans to put pressure on the Palestinians to stop anti-Israeli activities in the international arena. The Palestinians have to withdraw their law suits against Israeli officers, stop the boycott of Israeli goods and all incitement. What incentives do we have for agreeing to further compromises?

SPIEGEL: Does the prospect of signing a peace treaty with the Palestinians mean nothing?

Lieberman: First of all we want security. The international community is making a strategic mistake. You cannot impose peace. First you have to provide security and prosperity, then you can bring about a comprehensive solution.

SPIEGEL: So in your view the negotiations with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas are useless?

Lieberman: No. We have to keep the political process alive. Talks are better than nothing. The problem is that we don't know whom Abbas represents. His Fatah party lost the elections in 2006. In 2007, Hamas took over power by force in the Gaza Strip.

SPIEGEL: Nineteen years after the peace process started in Madrid with indirect talks, you are again leading "proximity talks." US Special Envoy Mitchell wants to commute the five kilometers between Jerusalem and Ramallah. Why does this have to be so complicated?

Lieberman: We were for direct talks from the beginning, whether in Jerusalem or Ramallah. It is the Palestinians who object to it. And they feel strengthened because the West constantly speaks about the settlements.

SPIEGEL: Do you think the Americans are naïve?

Lieberman: I don't know whether they are naïve. I believe in facts, and they are: Despite the settlements, we signed two peace agreements -- one with Egypt and one with Jordan. And although both Ehud Barak and Ehud Olmert were ready to evacuate most of the settlements and withdraw to the '67 border, the Palestinians refused to sign. With the Oslo agreements we gave up half of the West Bank ...

SPIEGEL: ... It wasn't you, but rather the leftist government of then-Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin.

Lieberman: Yes, I was against it and I am sorry to say that I was right. For 16 years we made concessions, but the Palestinians have only rejected them. And this despite the fact that on the Israeli side there were all these nice guys: Rabin, Peres, Barak, Olmert, Sharon. Not such bad guys like me ...

SPIEGEL: Sharon, a nice guy?

Lieberman: He vacated the settlements in the Gaza Strip.

Part 3: 'A National Conflict ... Developed into a Religious Conflict'

SPIEGEL: Why do you need the settlements at all?

Lieberman: First of all, Judea and Samaria are the birthplace of our nation since the days of the Bible. But the settlements are also important for our security.

SPIEGEL: The settlements? Do they not actually endanger your security?

Lieberman: No, the settlements around Jerusalem, for example, serve like a fence for us.

SPIEGEL: But you have already built a wall that separates Jerusalem from the West Bank.

Lieberman: The settlements are like a second security ring, we need them. But we are ready to negotiate about parts of them.

SPIEGEL: You live in a settlement yourself: Nokdim, south of Bethlehem.

Lieberman: And I said I am ready to give it up. But I have to be sure that there is a partner on the other side who is able to deliver. From our experience there is no partner and no results

SPIEGEL: Perhaps Israel has simply not offered enough?

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