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A Conversation With Avigdor Lieberman By Lally Weymouth

It was a big dispute between Prime Minister [Ariel] Sharon and me before disengagement [in 2005]. I said you go to establish a Palestinian state without even one Jew, we will become a binational state with more than twenty per cent minority. It won't work. . . . It is really a state and a half for the Palestinians and a half-state for the Israelis. . . .

Our proposal was exchanging territory and population, exactly like the Cyprus model.

You would take the territory where the Jews live in settlements on the West Bank and Israeli Arabs live and swap them?

Of course. Here is a picture of my settlement behind you, Nokdim, in the Judean Desert. I even agree to vacate my settlement if there really will be a two-state solution. What does the leader of the Israeli Arabs say? They're not interested in any Palestinian state. Even the Palestinians aren't interested in a Palestinian state.

You think they want all of Israel?

They want one country from the Jordan River to the sea. [Defense Minister Ehud] Barak gave a very crazy proposal to go back to the 1967 borders. [Yasir] Arafat said no. Also, Sharon gave up all of the Gaza Strip. And at [the] Annapolis [peace conference in 2007], a left-wing government gave very strange and crazy proposals. Even so, the Palestinians didn't accept. Prime Minister [Ehud] Olmert tried to jump from the first stage [of the roadmap] to the final stage. It didn't work, it's impossible.

You went to talk to both [Foreign Minister Tzipi] Livni and Netanyahu. Why did you evaluate Netanyahu as being the better leader?

[The best] solution for us is a government of the three biggest parties -- Likud, Kadima and Israel. It will be a stable government that can deal with all the problems from the economy to Iran. . . . We have two results from these elections. The first result is that the right wing really won the elections. The second result is that Kadima is the biggest party. The best solution for our country is a combination of these two results.

What portfolio would you like?

I think I can hold every portfolio -- defense, finance and foreign ministry. I think personally I'd like the foreign office.

Do you think you would have a problem with the international community, living in a settlement and having very hard-line views?

I've met everybody, Condoleezza Rice, Tony Blair, Javier Solana. They know me. I don't see that it would be an obstacle.

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