Israel minister doesn’t expect new Obama Middle East initiative
TEL AVIV - Israel's hardline defence minister said Wednesday that he does not expect any new US Middle East policy initiative from Barack Obama in the final weeks of his presidency.
Avigdor Lieberman's comments came as the UN Security Council was set to debate proposals for a draft resolution calling for a halt to Israeli settlement expansion in the occupied Palestinian territories, which could be tabled before the end of the year.
There has been speculation that Obama, whose administration has expressed mounting anger over Israeli settlement policy, could break with recent US practice and support -- or at least not veto -- such a resolution before he leaves office on January 20.
Lieberman made no direct reference to Wednesday's debate at the United Nations.
But asked if he expected any new initiative from Obama before his term ends, Lieberman said: "I don't think so.
"It is clear we are in a transition period, it is clear today -- not only in Israel but in the world -- we are waiting for new policies, a new administration."
Obama has had frosty personal relations with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu throughout his two-term presidency.
In September, he signed off on a 10-year military aid package for Israel worth $38 billion -- the largest in US history.
But the following month, the White House accused Israel of a betrayal of trust over its settlement policy and Washington called for action by the Security Council to salvage the possibility of a two-state solution.
That prompted Netanyahu to call on Washington "not to change what has historically been its policy for decades: to prevent anti-Israel resolutions in the UN Security Council."
Lieberman, who himself lives in a Jewish settlement in the occupied West Bank, was speaking at a conference organised by the Jerusalem Post newspaper.
In a wide-ranging interview with one of the paper's staff, he launched a renewed assault on the peace credentials of Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas.
"I don't believe in his intention to achieve a real peaceful solution," Lieberman said, pointing to previous failed peace efforts.
"Everybody who speaks about final status agreements in the next two, three, four years I think it is... illusions."