Lieberman: Annapolis Is Just 'Cocktail Party and Photo-Op'

Lieberman said the multinational Annapolis Summit had no chance of leading to significant change in the Middle East. Netanyahu disagrees.

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Nissan Ratzlav-Katz,

Minister of Strategic Affairs Avigdor Lieberman said the multinational Annapolis Summit had no chance of leading to significant change in the Middle East. Opposition leader
There is "no chance" Abbas will be able to control Gaza, Minister Lieberman said.
Knesset Member Binyamin Netanyahu, on the other hand, said that the conference could produce decisions that compromise Israeli security.

In an interview with the Knesset TV Channel on Monday, Minister Lieberman expressed confidence that Israel would not make dangerous concessions to the Palestinian Authority (PA). The Annapolis Summit is "a terrific cocktail party and a fantastic photo-op," but nothing else, Lieberman said.

Lieberman explained that he expects Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to rule out the formation of a Palestinian State until PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas can regain control of Gaza, which fell in a Hamas coup last summer. According to Lieberman, as long as Abbas does not control Gaza, he does not truly represent Arab public opinion.

Yet, there is "no chance" Abbas will be able to control Gaza, Minister Lieberman said, observing that Abbas cannot control Judea and Samaria at this time, either. "Because he is so weak, our minimum requests are more than he can accomplish," he added.

Saudis Refuse to Shake Hands
Minister Avigdor Lieberman's characterization of the Annapolis Summit as a "photo-op" may also have been overly generous. Saudi Arabian delegates to the conference categorically refused to shake hands with Israelis or to sit next to them at the conference's opening dinner in Washington Monday night.

Saudi Foreign Minister Saud Al-Faisal said, "We are here for the serious business of making peace. It is not a sporting contest where you shake hands and let the best man win."

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert commented on the snub, "If someone doesn't want to shake my hand, I won't extend mine." He characterized his presence as representing the People of Israel, saying that the offense is not personal, but to the entire nation.

During the dinner, American Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice sat between Prime Minister Olmert and PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas. The Saudi delegate's seat was not placed next to that of an Israeli, in order that they would not be photographed together.

Likud Warns Against 'Israeli Submission'
Likud party chief Binyamin Netanyahu warned on Monday that Prime Minister Olmert might strike a deal in Annapolis that would compromise Israel's security.
"I don't think there is any American pressure. There is only Israeli submission." - MK Netanyahu

Addressing the Likud faction in the Knesset on Monday, Netanyahu explained that pressure from United States officials was not the problem: "I don't think there is any American pressure. There is only Israeli submission." If Israeli leaders had made clear demands based on security needs, US President George Bush would not have disagreed, MK Netanyahu said.

The attempt to make peace with weak leadership such as Olmert and Abbas is what could lead to dangerous concessions, Netanyahu added.

Meanwhile, Moshe Feiglin, head of the Manhigut Yehudit faction in the Likud party, has called on Netanyahu and all Likud MKs to pledge that any and all agreements reached at this week's Annapolis Summit will not be honored by any future Likud government. Feiglin has succeeded in attaining some signatures on the pledge. The latest polls indicate that the Likud will form Israel's next government.

The official Likud party charter clearly opposes ceding Israeli sovereignty over any part of the Land of Israel.






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