The JPost interview covered a range of interesting subjects, but was generally a softball interview. No overly difficult or challenging questions were asked. Basically, the interviewer, without probing too profoundly, had Lieberman give an overview of his position on a variety of Israeli international interests.
Lieberman expresses his clear support for a two state solution and that neither he nor his government have any interest in governing people (Palestinians) who do not want to be governed by Israel. He explains his view of peace making efforts to date by citing treaties with Egypt, Jordan and Oslo as proof of Israel's desire for peace while lamenting that the withdrawal from Lebanon (the first time,) and Gaza, as well as offers made by Olmert and Barak were met with violence--rockets, the second intifada and so on. Lieberman asserts that the cause of conflict in the region today has nothing to do with the so-called "slogans" of occupation, settlements and land for peace because, he notes, that violence and terrorism existed prior to the 1967 war in which the territory was occupied and settled.
Lieberman sets out his three key pillars for peace in the region, these are security--for the Israelis from terrorism and for the Palestinians from internal, sectarian fighting. The economy, especially for Palestinians whose unemployment rate and average income Lieberman deplores. A solution he suggests be remedied by creating situations where the Palestinians can have jobs and provide for their families (somewhat disturbingly, he mentions how settlements can be major sources of employment for area Palestinians.) The last point is stability something Lieberman does not elaborate on. He does, however, note that in his view, Hamas was elected as a response to a corrupt alternative and provided an option that would not only offer political representation, but had social services as well. His logic for strengthening the Palestinian economy is to deny Hamas the "social services" niche in which to operate and generate support.
A few other points made in the interview worth noting are Lieberman's preference for the West Bank "model" of relations with the Palestinians as opposed to the Gaza model--read: no unilateral withdrawals. He also states that the right of return of even a single refugee to Israel proper from the West Bank is, in his view, a non-starter for final agreement negotiations with the Palestinians. Again, disturbingly he cites Cyprus as the model to be considered in the region, one where [paraphrasing] 'Greeks and Turks lived together, and then the populations were concentrated in separate areas and now there's peace.' Hopefully, he's not talking about population transfers. Finally, Lieberman argues that he sees no benefit in negotiations with Syria who are demanding that Israel relinquish the Golan Heights captured from that country in 1967 before discussing peace.
The Austrian interview contains many similar points from Lieberman, or, at the least the highlights from the "quick and dirty" translation on Kishkushim does. Lieberman repeats his point that terrorism existed before settlements were built in the West Bank and that support for projects that can rebuild the Palestinian economy (as opposed to just proving money to the Palestinian people) will bring an improved economic situation and increased stability. He also makes the same points about Hamas and the reason for Hamas' election.
In much of what he says in these two interviews, Lieberman comes off sounding rather reasonable. A two state solution, check. Economic development for the Palestinians, check. Addressing core causes of conflict that go beyond the settlements, check. Security for Israelis, check. Nonetheless, he still gives the reader pause for some concern. No negotiations with Syria, his comment about settlements being sources of employment for Palestinians, the total separation he advocates in the Cypriot example are not exactly encouraging. Lieberman commented in the JPost that this new government would take the initiative in peace negotiations. Let's hope so, and lets also hope, as this blog suggested previously that until a clear policy is articulated by this new Israeli government, that Lieberman is still speaking for himself and that Netanyahu, the Prime Minister, remains the most authoritative voice and that Lieberman is still just one to keep an eye on.