Saturday, November 18, 2006
Take Back Gaza, Israeli Official Says
This was Sharon's plan from day one. His apparent conversion led to a swap of the West Bank for Gaza. Just a deke to secure the West Bank and then reinvade Gaza.
Saturday November 18, 2006 1:01 PM
By KARIN LAUB
Associated Press Writer
RAMALLAH, West Bank (AP) - Israel should ignore moderate Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, wipe out the Hamas leadership and walk away from the U.S.-backed ``road map'' peace plan, Israel's new deputy prime minister, Avigdor Lieberman, said Saturday.
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert forged an alliance with Lieberman, one of Israel's most divisive politicians, last month to shore up his shaky coalition. The appointment of Lieberman as minister of strategic affairs raised concern that Olmert's government, weakened by the summer's war in Lebanon, would freeze all peace efforts.
Olmert's spokeswoman, Miri Eisin, had no comment Saturday on Lieberman's latest remarks laying out his views on the conflict with Palestinians.
Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat, a top Abbas aide, said Lieberman is stuck in the past and that his ideas ``are a recipe for the continuation of bloodshed, violence, extremism and hatred between the two sides.''
In an interview with Israel Radio, Lieberman proposed a series of measures, based on what he said is his belief that the Palestinians are not interested in setting up their own state, but rather in destroying Israel.
Israel must walk away from interim peace deals, the so-called Oslo Accords, and from the U.S.-backed ``road map'' plan, which envisions the establishment of a Palestinian state alongside Israel in several stages, he said.
``A continuation of Oslo, of the road map ... will lead us to another round of conflict, a much more bloody round, and in the end to an even deeper deadlock, and it threatens our future,'' he said.
He dismissed Abbas, elected president in 2005, as an ineffective leader and said he should be ignored, in favor of closer coordination with the Jordanian government about the fate of the West Bank.
``We have a reliable partner there which is Jordan,'' he said. ``We have to coordinate with Jordan. We have to say that Abbas is simply not relevant, we have to ignore him ... He has no authority, no power.''
Israel also needs to get tougher with the Hamas and Islamic Jihad groups, particularly their leaders, Lieberman said. ``I see the entire leadership of Hamas and Jihad walking around freely, and it's continuing to incite,'' he told the radio. ``They ... have to disappear, to go to paradise, all of them, and there can't be any compromise.''
The leader of the Hamas bloc in the Palestinian parliament, Mushir al-Masri, said any attack on the group's leaders would trigger immediate retaliation.
Israel has killed a series of Hamas leaders in targeted missiles strikes in recent years, including the group's founder, but has not targeted members of the Hamas government elected nine months ago.
Lieberman also proposed that Israel take back control of the Gaza-Egypt border to stop weapons smuggling.
Israel ceded the border in a U.S.-brokered agreement, after leaving the Gaza Strip last year.
Since then, the border has repeatedly been closed over security alerts, and Israel troops have raided the area in search of weapons-smuggling tunnels. The Israeli military has expressed concern about weapons flowing into Gaza. The border's Rafah crossing is controlled by Egypt, the Palestinians and EU monitors.
Lieberman said Israel cannot rely on others to prevent the influx of weapons.
``We have heard about tons of weapons, of missiles, we have heard about the smuggling of hundreds of millions of dollars into Gaza, and this is the fuel driving this entire war,'' he said. ``They have all failed, the international observers who are sitting at the Rafah crossing, the Egyptians.''
Lieberman's Yisrael Beiteinu Party (Israel is Our Home) has 11 seats in Israel's 120-member parliament, and gives Olmert a comfortable safety net in parliament votes.
The government expansion was roundly criticized by Israeli doves and Arab activists.