'Relations can be improved - regardless of the Palestinians'

Defense Min. says attempts to renew political talks with PA should not be linked to desire to strengthen ties with Arab states.

Mordechai Sones ,

Minister Liberman in Knesset
Minister Liberman in Knesset
Yonatan Sindel / FLASH 90

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman says that it is a mistake to draw a connection between attempts to strengthen ties with the moderate Arab states and a peace agreement with the PA.

"The fact is that we made peace with Egypt and Jordan - and this was not conditional on peace with the Palestinians," Liberman said in a question session on Monday afternoon in the Knesset in response to MK Yossi Yona ("Zionist Camp").

Referring to the four Sunni Arab states that had announced severing diplomatic relations with Qatar this morning - another has done so since - Liberman said, "It is clear to everyone, even in the Arab countries, that the danger is not Zionism but terrorism. What Trump is promoting is a coalition against terrorism, and the State of Israel is open to cooperation - the ball is now in the other court."

In response to a question about the young Israeli man, Ibrahim Mengistu, who is in the hands of Hamas, the Defense Minister said, "There are two soldiers and two civilians in Hamas captivity ... Until we receive the elementary right that at least the Red Cross can be allowed to visit the prisoners there will be no change in the situation in Gaza."

In response to MK Meir Cohen's question regarding preservation of Israel's military advantage following the US arms deal with Saudi Arabia, Liberman said, "We dealt with the deal before it became known to the public. We need to work in closed forums rather than publicly. Our job is not to prevent transactions. Our job is to preserve the qualitative edge."

Liberman also answered the question of MK Abd al-Hakim Haj Yihya about congestion at crossings used by PA Arabs: "I can regret the situation and agree that there is room for tremendous change for all of us. There are three different authorities operating the crossings today. I submitted a proposal to have only one authority in order to make it easier. It has now been decided that the Allenby crossing to Jordan will be open 24 hours a day to ease the congestion."

In response to MK Merav Michaeli's question on the appointment of a chairman of Israel Aircraft Industries (IAI), which is being run without a chairman after the dismissal of Yair Shamir, the Defense Minister said he thought it was an improper decision.

"He served twice as chairman and there were achievements; Yair was unanimously approved by the government. The disqualification is strange. We received a long answer and are studying it. The Minister of Defense and the Finance Ministry are responsible for the appointment and we will make the best decision. I hope that by the end of next week a decision will be made regarding the chairman of Israel Aerospace Industries," Liberman said.