Jerusalem: At least a decade would be needed to reach a peace accord with the Palestinians, the Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman has told.
"I think that we have good cooperation (with the Palestinians) on the economy and security and we must continue cooperation on these two levels and postpone the political solution for at least a decade," he said in an exclusive interview yesterday.
"I think that it`s impossible in an artificial way to accelerate the political process. I think that we must move step by step. All relations between... two countries, two entities are on three levels -- the political level, security and the economy.
"I think it is impossible to artificially accelerate the political process," he said.
"We must advance step by step."
Asked what the steps were to achieving peace, he said "first of all we must tighten our economic and security cooperation; second, less international involvement... which creates a lot of expectations and after the expectations you get frustration and it will lead to violence and clashes."
He said there was "overdoing, overspeaking and over involvement" from the "whole international community," including the United States, the Middle East diplomatic Quartet and others.
But he said he does not see the Palestinians as properly committed to the peace process.
"I think that I don`t see any readiness, any goodwill from this Palestinian leadership for a real political process. They think that they can achieve from the international community everything they want without talks, without any compromise. This is their strategy."
Lieberman, the hardline leader of the Yisrael Beitenu party, has been largely sidelined by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in peace talks with the Palestinians.
Direct talks between Israel and the Palestinians, the first for nearly two years, began in Washington on September 2 but quickly stalled when a 10-month Israeli settlements freeze expired on September 26. The Palestinians refused to return to talks until all settlement building stopped in the occupied
West Bank, including east Jerusalem.
After weeks of seeking to convince Israel to extend the freeze, Washington acknowledged on December 7 that it had failed.
Netanyahu had reluctantly accepted a US proposal to extend the moratorium for another three months, but the Israeli premier demanded written guarantees from Washington
and the matter went nowhere.
The United States subsequently proposed a return to the indirect "proximity" talks the two sides had been engaged through US Middle East envoy George Mitchell.