JERUSALEM, Israel - A dispute erupted over the weekend between Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu after Lieberman told an annual gathering of diplomats that a comprehensive peace agreement with the Palestinians is impossible at this time and so it's time to pull out "plan B."
Netanyahu is currently working with the Obama administration to restart direct Israeli-Palestinian peace talks. He quickly issued a statement saying Lieberman's views were strictly his own "personal assessment."
"The position of the government of Israel is solely the one articulated by the prime minister and the one expressed through cabinet decisions," Netanyahu's statement said.
In his comments, Lieberman noted that the Palestinian Authority government is actually "illegitimate" and so there is no chance of reaching an agreement with them.
"It pushed off elections three times, then lost the elections, doesn't intend on holding elections and there is no guarantee that the next time there are elections Hamas will not be elected," Lieberman said.
Lieberman said it would be foolish to sign an agreement with someone who was not legitimate.
In response, the PLO news agency WAFA quoted Fahmi Zarir, spokesman of the Fatah Revolutionary Council, saying that legitimacy of the PLO and PA political system is not derived from the position of the "Israeli occupation." He argued that according to Palestinian law the current government has the "necessary legitimacy."
According to the Israeli daily Ha'aretz, Lieberman is already working on a diplomatic plan "B" for an interim agreement intended to avoid "diplomatic stagnation" while "skirting the conflict's core issues."
Lieberman reportedly expects the Obama administration to resume its pressure on Israel regarding the Palestinians after the holidays. He was quoted as saying that his plan is meant "to bring the peace process down to earth." He believes there is not chance of reaching an agreement in the next few years especially regarding Jerusalem and Palestinian refugees, the paper said.
Israel's most senior diplomat is known for his undiplomatic statements. Some observers might say that Lieberman is like the child in the story of the Emperor's New Clothes, who points out that the king is actually naked.
Expectations are exceedingly low among both Israelis and Palestinians that there will be an actual peace agreement between the sides any time in the near future. Yet the U.S. and Europe keep pushing forward.
The Jerusalem Post contributed to this report.