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Europe Will Not Fall for Lieberman’s Rhetoric…

May 13, 2009

Avigdor Lieberman, Israel’s Foreign Minister under the new, ultra right-wing Netanyahu-led government, recently embarked on his official trip abroad.  During the trip, he will visit EU leaders in Rome, Paris, Prague and Berlin—which happen to be in the most Pro-Israel countries of the EU.

 Lieberman is hoping that the tour will “promote an upgrading of Israel’s relations with Europe.”  In his short time as FM, Lieberman has already been called a fascist and a racist because of his intended governmental policies and his statements about Arabs in Israel and Palestine.

 During his tour, Lieberman has purposely left out any mention of a two-state solution for Israel and Palestine, calling it merely a “slogan” and “cliché.”  When asked about his government’s plan for the peace process, he asked that “Europeans wait a bit longer until the government presents its new policy.” 

 However, as the world waits to hear about the new Israeli peace plan and to see if it includes a sovereign Palestinian state, Israel’s plans to expand the largest illegal settlement in the West Bank continue. 

 The new government plans to expand the settlement, Maale Adumim by 1200 dunams, connecting it to a smaller settlement nearby, Kedar.  If this plan goes through, the separation fence—which is already built illegally inside the internationally recognized Green Line—will be pushed even further into Palestinian territory.

 Instead of focusing on such “pompous declarations” as a two-state solution, Lieberman’s ideas for bringing peace to Israel and Palestine are merely economic.  Since Lieberman lives on an illegal settlement in the West Bank, he says that he “talks to Palestinians” and that “all they want is to make a good living.” 

 Basically, Lieberman is delaying the real peace process, one that includes a Palestinian state, as long as he can—while stealing more and more land from the West Bank through illegal settlements, outposts, and the separation fence.

 These colonialist policies will make it harder for Lieberman to convince the EU to “upgrade relations”, especially since Brussels has already freezed those plans until Israel reveals a peace plan that includes a two-state solution.

 Danny Ayalon, Lieberman’s Deputy Foreign Minister, is also traveling in Europe.  He visited Brussels to attend a conference of the Security and Political Committee of the EU, and also to work on improving relations between the EU and Israel. 

 Unlike Lieberman, Ayalon says that the “government is going to abide by all previous commitments, including the acceptance of the Road Map to Peace which will lead to a two-state solution.”

 As Ayalon promises the EU that they will continue the peace process, Lieberman calls the same process a “waste of money.”   

 Bernita Ferrerro-Waldner, Commissioner for External Relations of the EU, said there will be no upgrade in relations between the EU and Israel unless Netanyahu backs the idea of a sovereign Palestinian state. 

 In response, Israel threatened to expel the EU from the ‘Quartet’ of the US, Russia, UN, and EU.  In a telephone conversation with European ambassadors, a senior Israeli official said that “Israel is asking Europe to lower the tone and conduct a discreet dialogue.  However, if these declarations continue, Europe will not be able to be part of the diplomatic process, and both sides will lose.”

 These threats have not stopped European countries from standing by the idea of a two-state solution.  After Lieberman’s meetings in Italy with PM Berlusconi and FM Frattini, Frattini released a statement saying Lieberman should “tone down his statements and act to create a climate of collaboration” and that the peace process “must continue on the basis of the principle of two states for two peoples.”

 In France, Lieberman was greeted by a crowd of Pro-Palestinian demonstrators with banners saying “Boycott Israel” and chanting “No to Lieberman!”

 Frances FM Bernard Kouchner “recalled the expectations of France, in particular the creation of a viable Palestinian state coexisting in peace and security with Israel.”  He also called for a “complete halt to colonization (building of settlements)” as well as the opening of passages to the Gaza Strip to ease the economic and humanitarian crisis there.

 Although most of the EU is skeptical of Israel’s commitment to a two-state solution and will not be willing to upgrade relations without that commitment, the Czech Republic PM, Mirek Topolanek, is still fiercely pro-Israel and called on the EU to stop the freeze on EU-Israeli relations. 

 Ferrerro-Waldner commented on the Czech PM’s statements saying, “Anything that undermines the two-state solution has to be stopped.  Topolanek is condoning the settlements, totally against the policies of the EU.”

 It looks like Lieberman’s plans to improve relations with the EU without committing to a two-state solution seem to have failed, but the real test for the new government will be to convince President Obama that they are still “in-line” with the U.S. ideals and it’s commitment to the creation of a Palestinian state. 

 Israel’s new peace plan will be unveiled when Lieberman visits President Obama in mid-May.

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