Within one year we have made many gestures towards the Palestinians. We expect the Americans to put pressure on the Palestinians to stop anti-Israeli activities in the international arena.

 Spiegel interview with FM Liberman-Excerpts


Reuters archive photo

On the announced plans to build 1,600 housing units in eastern Jerusalem:

Even between the best of friends mistakes and misunderstandings can happen. We never promised to stop building in Jerusalem. But the announcement during the visit of US Vice President Joe Biden was a mistake – a bureaucratic mistake of the building committee in charge.

You must understand: It is not settlements. Sixty-five percent of the Jewish population of Jerusalem live in new neighborhoods that we started to build after the Six-Day War in 1967. They lie beyond the ’67 borders, but they are not small villages, but municipal neighbourhoods with tens of thousands of residents. It’s an integral part of our capital. We are not ready to negotiate about Jerusalem.

On negotiations with the Palestinians:

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gave a speech at Bar-Ilan University, in which he recognized for the first time the two-state solution. That was a difficult decision for us; don’t forget, this is a right-wing government. Secondly, we diminished the number of roadblocks and improved the access and movement for the Palestinians. By doing so, we created economic growth in the Palestinian cities of 8 percent. Thirdly, we undertook a moratorium in the settlements. Within one year we made many concessions in advance, but despite that the whole world says: "OK, that’s good, but you must deliver more."

Within one year we have made many gestures towards the Palestinians. We expect the Americans to put pressure on the Palestinians to stop anti-Israeli activities in the international arena. The Palestinians have to withdraw their law suits against Israeli officers, stop the boycott of Israeli goods and all incitement. What incentives do we have for agreeing to further compromises?

First of all we want security. The international community is making a strategic mistake. You cannot impose peace. First you have to provide security and prosperity, then you can bring about a comprehensive solution.

We have to keep the political process alive. Talks are better than nothing. The problem is that we don’t know whom Abbas represents. His Fatah party lost the elections in 2006. In 2007, Hamas took over power by force in the Gaza Strip.

We were for direct talks from the beginning, whether in Jerusalem or Ramallah. It is the Palestinians who object to it. And they feel strengthened because the West constantly speaks about the settlements.

Despite the settlements, we signed two peace agreements – one with Egypt and one with Jordan. And although both Ehud Barak and Ehud Olmert were ready to evacuate most of the settlements and withdraw to the ’67 border, the Palestinians refused to sign. With the Oslo agreements we gave up half of the West Bank… For 16 years we made concessions, but the Palestinians have only rejected them.

Judea and Samaria are the birthplace of our nation since the days of the Bible. But the settlements are also important for our security. The settlements around Jerusalem, for example, serve like a fence for us. The settlements are like a second security ring, we need them. But we are ready to negotiate about parts of them. But I have to be sure that there is a partner on the other side who is able to deliver. From our experience there is no partner and no results.

There is a fundamental misunderstanding about the nature of this conflict. It started as a national conflict between two people over one piece of land. But it developed into a religious conflict. It is a clash of civilizations which you cannot solve with a territorial compromise.

On the heritage sites:

Hebron was the first Jewish city, King David started our nation from there. We have not altered the status quo of the tomb of Abraham, Muslims have free access to the mosque. This kind of tolerance does not exist on the Muslim side. Last week Hamas called for a "day of rage," because we opened the Hurva synagogue in the Old City of Jerusalem, which was destroyed in 1948.

On the Iranian threat:

The biggest problem is the aggressive influence of Iran. It would be enough to have tough sanctions from the West like the EU and the US and also Japan, Australia and Canada. That would suffocate the Iranian nuclear program. Germany is playing a very positive role. During my last visit, I felt for the first time that the German government understands that tough sanctions are necessary. But I am afraid that disagreements and a lack of political will within the international community could prevent real sanctions.

I don’t think that Israel should take responsibility for this issue. But we are not taking any options of the table.

The biggest danger is the indecisiveness of the international community. Iran is threatening the whole world. It is not coincidental that they do not celebrate an "Independence Day," but the "Day of the Islamic Revolution." Revolutionaries always try to export their revolution, that was the case with the Bolsheviks and also with Che Guevara. Therefore, we see Iranian activities in the whole world: in Africa, in South America and of course in the Middle East: with Hamas, Hizbullah or Muqtada al-Sadr in Iraq. They are all proxies of Iran.