Israel's new foreign minister dismayed the international community today with a rancorous analysis of the peace process and an announcement that the new government favors aggression rather than concessions to the Palestinians.
In his first speech since taking office, the rightwinger Avigdor Lieberman dismissed the last round of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, arguing that Israeli concessions made in a bid to secure peace had all been fruitless.
"Those who want peace should prepare for war and be strong," he said. "There is no country that made concessions like Israel. Since 1967 we gave up territory that is three times the size of Israel. We showed willingness. The Oslo process started back in 1993, and to this day I have not seen that we reached peace."
Speaking to what the Associated Press describes as a roomful of "cringing diplomats", the new foreign minister said Israel was not bound by the Annapolis peace talks. These were initiated in November 2007 to solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and involved around 40 countries.
"The Israeli government never ratified Annapolis; nor did [the] Knesset," said Lieberman, promising to honour only the US-initiated "road map" of 2002, which has long been in stalemate amid accusations from both sides.
Lieberman's speech is in stark contrast to remarks made by the incoming prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, and the Israeli president, Shimon Peres, who both said the new government would pursue peace on every front.
During a recent visit to the Czech Republic, the Israeli president said the new administration had promised: "We shall continue the negotiations with the Palestinians. We shall negotiate with each of our neighbors ... and see what can be done in terms of peace on the regional level." And a week before taking office, Netanyahu vowed to engage in peace negotiations with the Palestinian Authority.
Their comments came in reaction to growing international concern that the new Israeli government would not be committed to a two-state peace process.
In today's speech, Lieberman was more amiable towards Egypt, which he described as an "important element in the Arab world". This is an improvement on a few weeks ago, when he said the Egyptian president, Hosni Mubarak, could "go to hell".