Former Israeli ambassador Avi Primor talks to DW about the difficult peace process in the Middle East - and about Israel's new defense minister, who's not afraid to voice anti-Arab sentiments.
DW: Mr. Primor, a new round of Middle East peace talks has opened in Paris - without Israel and the Palestinians. Does that make sense?
Avi Primor: Of course it makes sense. The French plan on establishing an international draft for negotiations. That, in turn, means there's no common denominator today to bring Israelis and Palestinians together. So someone has to come up with an idea for what to suggest to the Middle East, or for what can be forced - not officially, of course.
It's clear that the Palestinians are powerless and that the Israeli government doesn't want negotiations or compromises. That's why the international community, Europe, the US, have to meet first, without Israelis and Palestinians. I think that's very logic.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu wants to talk to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas directly. Why doesn't he?
That's of course just a type of propaganda. He doesn't actually want to negotiate with the Palestinians. He wants to talk to them, sure, but he wants to dictate, not negotiate or look for a compromise. We also know that when he talks about two states, he means states which the Palestinians couldn't accept under any circumstances. That's propaganda.
The two-state solution is still considered the goal of the Israeli government. What is that solution supposed to look like in the face of a settlement policy that spreads Israeli houses all over the Palestinian territories like leopard print?
If it's about the occupied territories, then these are Palestinian territories where Palestinian residents live - parts of which the Israeli government wants to annex. There are ministers in the Israeli government who want to annex everything.
Others say that's not possible because of the demographic question. But those in the right-leaning camp who say that we need a separation and a Palestinian state also believe that we should annex at least 60 percent of the West Bank. That's where most of the settlements are built. The remaining 40 percent are then supposed to be the Palestinian state, but fragmented and surrounded by Israelis.
Israel's new defense minister has been approved just before the start of the Paris peace initiative. Avigdor Lieberman is considered a man who has no qualms about making anti-Arab statements. Which clientele does this man represent in Israel?
He's mostly a populist. His voters are what interests him. And his voters are the older immigrants from Russia. They're mostly right-leaning, rightwing and got their education while they were still in Russia. What they really care about are economic questions. That's his clientele.
Now Lieberman is defense minister. That means he's the most important cabinet member right after the head of government. He has to build up a new clientele because he won't be able to count on the old Russians forever. Their numbers are not increasing, so many people believe he's an opportunist who's going to behave in ways that are different from what people were expecting. In the future, he has to convince new, different voters as well.
In summer 2013, you said in an interview that no one in Israel believed in peace anymore. This fatalism, you said, came from the deep need to waste no more energy on something that appeared unsolvable. Are you sticking with this pessimistic assessment?
Yes. I wouldn't say that all Israelis think this way, but the majority does. It also has a lot to do with the official propaganda. Again and again, we're told that we don't have partners and can't have interlocutors, that there actually is no solution. It's propaganda that always explains to us that the Palestinians are terrorists and only want to annihilate Israel.
Of course, not everyone believes that. But many people are influenced by the official propaganda. It's always been this way in Israel. When it was officially claimed that we had to negotiate with the Palestinians, most Israelis believed in negotiations. That means the majority of Israelis believes in the official propaganda.
Avi Primor was the Israeli ambassador to Germany in the early 1990s.