Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman spoke this morning to participants at the Herzliya Conference, and addressed the renewal of negotiations with the PA.
He emphasized that the return of the 'refugees,' descendants of Arabs who left Israel in 1948 and are termed as such by the PA was a red line for Israel. “We will not agree to the return of a single refugee to within the ‘67 borders,” he said. “There will never be another Prime Minister who makes propositions to Palestinians like Ehud Olmert did.”
He noted that an agreement with the PA will not solve regional problems. “There shouldn’t be any delusions: An end to the conflict with the Palestinians will not solve the problems - it will make them worse.”
“We must first reach a regional agreement with moderate Sunni states, and only then an agreement with the Palestinians,” he asserted.
“Since the 6-Day War we haven’t had a military victory. There were many empty words and declarations - including mine. It’s true that there were successful operations which they study around the world. But the absence of a definitive victory delayed our connection with the moderate states - and this will change.”
With respect to the Arab view of Israel, Liberman said, “The only place they don’t want to leave is Israel. Why? Because it’s good for them here. With all the justifiable criticism, they understand that it’s good for them here. So why do we accept Ahmad Tibi and Ayman Odeh in the Knesset? When the Joint List doesn’t agree to sign with Meretz because ‘it’s a Zionist party’ - this demands our attention. When Ayman Odeh refuses to come to the funeral of Shimon Peres - this demands our attention. So what about the gap between the representatives and the public? (referring to the claim that the Arab MKs do not represent the political views of most Israeli Arabs, ed.) I blame ourselves - Israel. If someone [in the Arab sector] would have the courage to say: ‘Even if a Palestinian state is established, we will stay in Israel’ - a list like that, in my assessment, would garner 65% of the Arab vote.”
Liberman added, “We have no intention of initiating any military process - not in the summer and not in the fall - not in the North and not in the South. We need to create deterrence.”
With respect to the deteriorating situation in the Gaza Strip, Liberman explained that “The crisis is intra-Palestinian. I don’t think we need to get into it. It won’t end soon. It’s not a one-time process [by Abbas], but a strategy against Hamas, and may be occurring in order to drag Hamas into a confrontation with Israel.”
“I want to caution the Syrian regime, which encourages Hezbollah and the Iranians to act against Israel. They cannot continue to supply Hezbollah with weapons. We will not hesitate to act if we need to.”