Lieberman has the left up in arms
New Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman entered his office with a bang on Wednesday afternoon, saying that while Israel is committed to every aspect of the Road Map, it is not obligated by the Annapolis process.Yep, he's got the PLO enraged too. Well if they don't like what he says, maybe they should do themselves a favor and not talk to him! He's better off not being in their company anyway.
At a ceremony in the Foreign Ministry where he took the reigns from former foreign minister Tzipi Livni, Lieberman said, "There is one document that obligates us, and it is not the Annapolis document," in reference to the Road Map.
He said that the coalition agreements it was made clear that the government would accept all previous agreements, insisting, "There is Israeli governmental continuity." He added that while the government of Israel endorsed the Road Map in 2002, it did not do so to the 2007 Annapolis process.
Lieberman said that Israel would abide strictly by the Road Map, as well as the two accompanying documents, including the Mitchell Report. "We will never agree to jump over all the clauses and go to the last one, which is negotiations over a final status agreement," he said. He noted that the agreement includes dismantling terrorist infrastructure and setting up a government that can govern.
The Road Map peace plan also calls on Israel to cease all settlement construction and dismantle illegal outposts.
Lieberman warned against broad concessions, saying they "only bring pressure and more wars."
In a speech that surprised many of the employees who were expecting generalities, Lieberman also made clear that he believed Egypt is a key strategic partner and an important factor for stability in the region.
"What is important is to maintain world and regional stability," he said, adding that he was being asked constantly, "What will be with Egypt?"
"Egypt existed in the time of our Patriarchs, and will apparently be in our time as well," he went on. "Egypt is certainly an important factor, and an important country in the Arab world, and a factor that stabilizes the regional situation, and perhaps beyond it."
His comments appeared to be an attempt to assuage concerns in Cairo following comments he made in the past about Egypt. Lieberman said that he would both like to visit Egypt, and would welcome their leaders here.
"I will definitely be happy to visit Egypt, and I would be happy for Egyptian leaders to visit us here, and for the Egyptian foreign minister to visit the Israeli Foreign Ministry. I certainly respect them, and I want them to respect us, on the basis of reciprocity," he said.
Late last year in a Knesset address, Lieberman slammed Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak's unwillingness to travel to Israel on an official visit, saying "If he wants to talk to us, he should come here; if he doesn't want to come here, he can go to hell."
Regarding Israel's difficult diplomatic standing in the world today, Lieberman noted that this came at a time when Israel was willing to make more concessions than ever before.
In relation to public opinion, he asked, "When was Israel most at its most popular in the world? After the Six Day War, not after Oslo A, B, C and D."
Lieberman added that in order to be respected in the world, you have to respect yourself.
Livni offered a brief but pointed reaction to Lieberman's speech.
"This speech proved that I did the right thing when I did not join the government," Livni said.
Yasser Abed Rabbo, a top aide to Palestinian Authority Mahmoud Abbas and his unofficial spokesman, said that no one could force the Palestinians to sit around the negotiating table with "a racist like Lieberman."
Hadash MK Afo Agbaria called on the international community to impose a diplomatic embargo on Israel following Lieberman's comments.
"It isn't surprising that such fiery declarations come from the mouth of the racist foreign minister just one day after the government's establishment," added Agbaria.
Update: here's some commentary about this from One Jerusalem and Melanie Phillips.