Israel’s Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman says his far right Yisrael Beitenu party will block any attempt to extend Tel Aviv’s 10-month settlement freeze.
"There is no need to extend the freeze," Lieberman said in an interview with Israeli Army Radio on Monday, AFP reported.
"Yisrael Beitenu has enough power in the government and in parliament to ensure that no such proposal succeeds," he warned.
In November, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced a 10-month freeze on illegal settlement expansion projects in the occupied West Bank. The moratorium, however, excluded construction plans in the Israeli-annexed East al-Quds (Jerusalem) and what Tel Aviv called ‘community centers.’
Lieberman’s remarks come amid US-backed direct negotiations between the Palestinian Authority (PA) and Israel in Washington and the PA’s repeated warnings that Tel Aviv’s insistence on settlement expansion could derail the talks.
Lieberman’s Yisrael Beitenu party is the second largest faction in the governing coalition after Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud party, which also opposes any extension.
Lieberman has already poured cold water on the latest round of talks, saying he did not expect the controversial negotiations to be fruitful.
"I do not believe that a comprehensive agreement with the Palestinians is possible within a year, nor even during the next generation," he told a party gathering on Sunday.
The latest round of Israeli-PA discussions started on September 2, nearly 20 months after the talks broke off in the wake of Israel’s December 2008 offensive against the Gaza Strip.
Hosting the talks in Washington, US President Barack Obama has set the ambitious goal of reaching a deal within a year.
Tel Aviv insists that the issue of Israeli settlements, seen as the main obstacle in the way to peace in the Middle East, should be discussed alongside other core disputes, including the final status of al-Quds and the fate of thousands of Palestinian refugees.