Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman has told Israel Radio that he is "not optimistic" about the results of the direct negotiations and rules out a peace deal within one year. He has called for everyone to have "lower expectations" of the summit for the launch of negotiations in Washington next week.
According to the radio report, Mr. Lieberman said that the Palestinians are going to these negotiations because they have been pressured to do so; their demands, he said, are designed to prevent genuine negotiations taking place. In ruling out a deal within the anticipated twelve-month period, the Foreign Minister said that the gap between the two sides is too wide.
Speaking in the same vein, the right-wing Minister said that the Israeli government cannot respond to any further American requests to extend the construction freeze in Jerusalem and the West Bank. Such construction work in the major settlement blocs should continue as usual, he added, and construction taking place outside these blocs is simply in accordance with the needs of natural population growth.