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Israel’s Defense Minister: Abu Mazen “Not Interested” in Peace

Liberman also warns Hizbullah, talks about potential for war during regional security conference in Tel Aviv

[TEL AVIV] Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman said Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is not interested in reaching any peace deal with Israel.

The defense minister’s comments came during a question and answer session at the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS) conference in Tel Aviv on Wednesday.

“He has no desire to reach any agreement with Israel no matter what the proposal,” Liberman said of Abbas. “He wants to drag his feet and wear us down.”

Lieberman’s comments about the future of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process were perhaps some of the more pessimistic during the two day event that started Tuesday at the Charles Bronfman Auditorium, featuring keynote speakers and discussion panels with top Israeli political and military officials, diplomats and noted academics.

One of the keynote speakers, the United Nations Middle East Peace envoy Nickolay Mladenov said, while there is a “big sense of pessimism regarding the peace process” he doesn’t think the process is dead.

“I think this is the perfect opportunity to rethink what we are doing and regain a sense of direction,” Mladenov said.

In an interview with The Media Line, Mladenov agreed it may be difficult regaining a sense of direction with troubled waters separating the Trump Administration and the Palestinians.

“Obviously there can be differences in terms of approaches and the details of this process but the understanding in the international community remains that you need to have a two-state outcome,” Mladenov said. “So let’s start by restating that collectively and then move on from that. Because, certainly, I don’t believe that you can have a final status deal without the engagement of the United States.”

Former U.S. Ambassador to Israel Daniel Shapiro said he doesn’t think any approach by any American administration under the current circumstances, with leaders who mistrust each other completely, is likely to produce a big breakthrough toward a two-state solution.

“”I think the most important approach right now for the (Trump) administration is to try to encourage all parties to take the steps on the ground – economic and security and political – that would keep the two state solution alive and viable for later,” former Ambassador Shapiro told The Media Line. “Negotiations really shouldn’t happen until there is a change in leadership and the dynamics have improved. Otherwise the next negotiations will fail very quickly and maybe spectacularly.”

Defense Minister Liberman said the goal right now is to “manage the conflict and do the maximum we can do to reach a long-term interim agreement.”

Liberman, during his comments, also talked about the potential for another Lebanon war, saying if Israelis are forced into bomb shelters, “all of Beirut will be in shelters.”

It’s the latest rhetoric from Israeli officials about Lebanon and the potential for another conflict on Israel’s northern border.

Israel Education Minister Naftali Bennett issued his own warning during comments at the INSS Conference on Wednesday.

“We will also not sit idly and watch the accumulation of accurate missiles in Lebanon,” Bennett said. “Between 2006 and 2012 Hezbollah made a massive leap in the quantities of its rockets, and now has over 130,000. We will not allow it to make a qualitative leap.”