Wednesday, March 17, 2010

FM Lieberman: U.S. demand to end East Jerusalem building is 'unreasonable'

(Haaretz).The demands made by the U.S. and other world powers regarding the cessation of Israel's building projects in East Jerusalem is unreasonable, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said on Wednesday, adding that he felt preventing Jews from buying lands anywhere in the capital is a form of discrimination.

Lieberman, speaking at a joint press conference with the European Union's High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Catherine Ashton in Jerusalem, said that the demand represented, "to a large extent, an opportunity to attack Israel and pressure Israel into doing unreasonable things."

"The demand to forbid Jews to buy or build in East Jerusalem is unreasonable. Let's consider what would happen if we would ban the Arab residents of the city to buy in west Jerusalem," Lieberman asked, adding that he had asked "all of the leaders who I have spoken with recently that question."

"Some said that we would then be an apartheid state, but that's an unacceptable asymmetry," the foreign minister said.

Lieberman told the Ashton that "Jerusalem is Israel's capital and must be accessible to members of all faiths," adding that "anyone may buy and build wherever he likes."

"There are thousands of East Jerusalem Arabs who live in the Jewish neighborhood in the west and that will continue," Lieberman said.

The foreign minister reiterated that the timing of the approval's announcement during Biden's visit was off, and that Israel had "no reason to confront the United States or the European Union."

"We are trying to clarify our stance through the proper channels, to explain what's happening and I hope we will reach and understanding," the FM said, adding that he suggested against turning recent tensions to "an overall confrontation that would contribute nothing positive to the diplomatic process, won't bring the sides together or make it easier on them."

Lieberman also commented on talks with the Palestinians, asserting that "all of Israel wants peace. The only discussion is on what's the best way to achieve that peace."