On Monday, Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman launched a multi-front attack, bombarding Turkey, the Palestinian Authority...and his own Prime Minister.
Talking to Israeli diplomats, Lieberman pressed his belief that the "Palestinians never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity", saying that they "would find a reason not to sign a peace agreement even if the Israelis had offered Tel Aviv and a retreat to 1947 borders". He called Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's attempt to achieve a peace agreement "unrealistic" and said the Palestinian Authority, recognized by West Jerusalem since 1994, was an "illegitimate government that doesn't conduct elections".
Lieberman's "alternative plan" is a long-term interim agreement:
Within the reality of the current political situation and the current coalition, it is not possible to present a real policy that would be accepted to everyone. If we were to present a policy program, the coalition simply would not exist anymore
As for Turkey, Lieberman dismissed Prime Minister Recep Tayyep Erdogan and Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu as "liars":
The demand for an apology [over the Mavi Marmara] is more than chutzpah. Turkey is the one who should apologize before Israel. We are not the ones who began the escalation of events and the Turks can only blame themselves.
We cannot allow ourselves to become Turkey's punching bag. We are most certainly thankful to the Turks for aiding us in the Carmel fire but I remind them that in 1999, Israel aided Turkey for weeks after the earthquake. And if, God forbid, a disaster happens to strike Turkey, we will be glad to help them –-- unrelated to our political relations.
In response, the Prime Minister's Office said:
Lieberman's comments represent his personal political positions, just as ministers in the government have different positions from each other. Israel's position is solely the one that the prime minister expresses.
Division amongst parties in the Israeli domestic arena quickly emerged. Kadima, from outside the coalition government, said:
Lieberman said what every citizen in Israel knows: Israel has a government with no real policies, a government without direction and a government without leadership.
The government of Netanyahu, Lieberman, Yishai, and Barak is harming the state of Israel and causing it to deteriorate politically, economically, and socially.
And, the Labor, having said that it was disappointed with the foreign minister's "hasty and irresponsible statements", condemned Netanyahu:
The government of Israel, headed by Netanyahu, has committed to the vision of two states for two people. The Labor Party maintains that the time has come to ratify the prime minister's Bar-Ilan speech as government policy and act according to it as soon as possible. Only progress in the peace process will foil attempts to delegitimize Israel in the international community.
Industry, Trade and Labor Minister Benjamin Ben-Eliezer brought the very opposite of a security-based freedom approach and said that Israel's very existence depended on the renewal of Middle East negotiations. He added:
We must do everything possible to get to dialogue with the Palestinians, even if it costs us a settlement freeze for a few months. I wouldn't be surprised if within one year the whole world supports a Palestinian state, including the United States. Then we'll ask where we were and what we were doing.
Labor's chairman Ehud Barak, from inside the coalition, said it is in Israel's best interests to reduce tensions with Turkey, and also emphasized Israel's need to push for a two-state solution with the Palestinians.
On Monday, PM Netanyahu took back the microphone. In an interview with Channel 10 , he sent a message to Ramallah: If you think that you can let me go fall due to your intransigence over the issues of Jerusalem and refugees, then you will not just only see a more active Lieberman but also a tougher Likud Party for the next elections.
Despite Lieberman's attack, Netanyahu seemed to offer convergence that peace negotiations with the Palestinians could result in an interim settlement:
There could well be a situation that if we enter into talks with the Palestinians and we hit a wall on the issues of Jerusalem and refugees, the result would be an interim agreement. That is certainly a possibility.
Concering Ankara, Netanyahu said that Israel was willing to express regret over the Gaza flotilla incident but that Israel would not apologize for the actions of its naval commandos.
But can the Prime Minister hold the line both with his Foreign Minister and with those demanding a return to genuine negotiations with the Palestinians? After listening to Netanyahu's latest attempt, Arab League Secretary General Amr Moussa said on Monday: "The Palestinian issue and the peace process are a priority."