Liberman: Deal Almost Closed When PA Pulled Out
Speaking to foreign diplomats Sunday night, Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman said that Israel and the Palestinian Authority had been close to an agreement – until the Palestinians decided to backtrack from agreements they had already made.
“Israel was very close to a package deal with the Palestinians, a complicated deal that was about to be sent to the cabinet for a vote,” Liberman said. “But at the last minute the Palestinians went back on their commitments and applied for national standing on 15 UN panels,” he said.
The deal would have entailed Israel's releasing a fourth set of terrorists. Last year, Israel committed to releasing over 100 terrorists, many responsible for the deaths of multiple Israelis, as a “gesture” to tempt PA chief Mahmoud Abbas to restart talks with Israel after a three year hiatus. So far, Israel has released more than 75 terrorists.
Another 26 were set to be released several weeks ago, but the government held up the release at the last moment. In response, PA threatened to cut off talks with Israel altogether, and sent documents to 15 UN committees and commissions demanding recognition as a full member state, in violation of a commitment they gave not to do so to U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry.
The talks began to unravel completely last month when the PA's refusal to recognize Israel as a Jewish state and its refusal to extend talks beyond their April 29 deadline to indefinitely postpone the final tranche of 104 convicted terrorists which were to be released in a "goodwill" gesture that was contingent on the progress of negotiations.
Liberman said that PA chief Mahmoud Abbas “ran away from making a commitment at the last minute, as he did when Ehud Olmert proposed his plan, and as Yasser Arafat did at Camp David after Ehud Barak proposed his plan. It is not at all clear that Abbas wants to reach an arrangement or prefers to engage in a blame game.”
Liberman told the diplomats that it was unhelpful to the peace process to encourage the Palestinians to continue with their unilateral steps. “Anyone who wants to help the peace process must remain balanced and not automatically blame Israel,” Liberman said. “As the Mideast burns, there is one island of democracy and stability here – the State of Israel. We expect the international community to pay more attention to our needs, especially our security needs.