Israel's straight-shooting Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman told his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov Tuesday that one can only dream about a Palestinian Authority state by 2012.
Lieberman, whose style of skipping over diplomatic niceties has earned him praise and criticism, said at a joint conference, "We can express interest, we can dream, but in reality, we are still far from reaching understandings and agreements on establishing an independent state by 2012."
PA spokesman Ghassan Khatib retorted, "Lieberman is issuing a challenge to the international community, which is in agreement on the two-year ceiling." Abbas and his Prime Minister, Salam Fayyad, previously have said that if the PA is not recognized as a country in two years, they will turn to the United Nations to unilaterally impose the state within Israel’s current borders.
Lieberman’s remarks captured extra attention because they coincided with the arrival of U.S. Middle East envoy George Mitchell who is trying to bridge gaps between Israel and the PA over the proposal for creating a new Arab state in place of Judea and Samaria, the Old City of Jerusalem and all of the neighborhoods that were restored to Israel in the Six-Day War in 1967.
The Quartet, which includes Russia, has been pressuring Israel to agree to most of PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas’ conditions for the creation of the PA as a new Arab state.
Lieberman has been promoting his own recipe for a new PA state, based on a land swap with Israel whereby Israel would surrender heavily populated Israeli Arab cities in return for Arab recognition of Israeli sovereignty over large Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria.
Virtually all surveys have shown that Israeli Arabs would suffer a serious loss in their economic status if they were to give up their citizenship in order to become part of a Palestinian Authority state.