In a new book, former US Ambassador to Israel Martin Indyk has dropped a potential political bombshell, revealing that Avigdor Lieberman, head of the Yisrael Beitenu party, once held secret talks on territorial concessions to the Palestinian Authority (PA) with one of Yasser Arafat's key advisers.
In addition, Indyk asserts that Lieberman told his PA interlocutor, Muhammad Rachid, that he was prepared to accept the wide-ranging concessions which then-Prime Minister Ehud Barak had offered to Arafat at the 2000 Camp David Summit.
These included the division of Jerusalem, an Israeli withdrawal from over 95 percent of Judea and Samaria, and a dilution of Israeli sovereignty over the Temple Mount, Judaism's holiest site.
The disclosures are contained in a memoir penned by Indyk, who served two stints as America's envoy to Jerusalem during the Clinton administration.
The 500-page book, entitled, "Innocent Abroad: An Intimate Account of American Peace Diplomacy," provides an insider's view of the workings of the peace process, including a look at the failed Camp David talks which were convened in the waning days of Bill Clinton's presidency.
On page 375 of the book, Indyk writes that, "After Camp David, with Arafat's approval, Rachid had initiated a dialogue with Avigdor Lieberman, the leader of Yisrael Beitenu, the right-wing Russian immigrant party." He notes that, "According to Rachid's account, Lieberman had indicated that the broad outlines of Barak's territorial offer would be acceptable to the national (right-wing) bloc."
Indyk's revelations could prove damaging to Lieberman, whose party is soaring in the polls in advance of Israel's February 10 elections, thanks in large part to his nationalist image among the public.
Irene Etinger, Avigdor Lieberman's spokeswoman, commented on Indyk's claim, "The facts quoted in the book are not true."
Political observers suggest that Lieberman and his party are now likely to come under increased scrutiny in the wake of Indyk's book, particularly in light of Lieberman's past statements on the issue of Jerusalem.
As Israel National News reported previously, in October 2007 Lieberman came under fire for suggesting at a cabinet meeting that Israel should divide Jerusalem and transfer various neighborhoods within the city to PA control.
In The Jerusalem Post's coverage of Lieberman's willingness to divide Jerusalem, a senior Likud official said, "He crossed a line that cannot be crossed and we are shocked by the way he has zigzagged between Right and Left."
At that time, the Yisrael Beitenu platform, publicized on its website, stated "Unless there is a partition between the Arab residents of metropolitan Jerusalem and its Jewish residents, Israel will find itself with an additional 200,000 Arab Israelis who will turn Jerusalem into a city with an Arab majority. Of course, the addition of such a large number of Arabs to Israel has general demographic importance."
The platform further said, "Neighborhoods like Jebel Mukaber, a-Ram and others can go to 'Palestinian sovereignty."