World public opinion is Israel's number one foreign policy problem, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said Tuesday, Jerusalem Post reported.
Addressing the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, Lieberman said that limited resources were hampering Israel's ability in the international arena.
"World public opinion about us doesn't reflect the reality and we cannot continue to have foreign policy success without dramatically improving the approach concerning how we are perceived in the eyes of the world by Western countries, the Free World, where we have a fundamental problem of not being perceived well," said the foreign minister.
Lieberman also tried to ease tensions with the US, saying that Israel "praises the US regional approach and its attempts not only to reach a deal between Israelis and Palestinians, but for a regional approach in which all constructive sides understand that there is a need for cooperation."
He said that although there was "no substitute" for Israel's ties with the US, bolstering relations with other powers also had to be examined, an approach he stressed Washington agreed with.
"We are in a period of very busy diplomatic work," he continued. "And, of course, the prime minister's speech, which to a certain degree will sharply formulate the Netanyahu-government's outlook, is arousing great interest."
He said that there were difficult global challenges - mainly the issue of Iran, which he said was "working to bridge the gap to achieve nuclear weapons capability."
Lieberman said that internal Iranian discourse was of particular interest to him.
"The most fascinating thing about what we have seen is the response within Iran to how the international community is dealing with North Korea, and what is interesting is how it is discussed in talkbacks on uncensored Web sites," he said. "In Iran, as opposed to most other countries in the region, there is a broad discussion in talkbacks and over the Internet.
"The group generally participating in these talkbacks and in most of the Internet forums is, of course, students, those of free professions, the middle classes," he continued. "Their conclusion is clear - if the international community is not prepared to stop the poorest and most isolated nation in the world, North Korea, there is no chance that they will stop us and no need for any gestures."
Lieberman warned that there was evidence that the Sunni Arab world would not accept not having nuclear weapons should Iran possess them.
"If, God forbid, Iran attains military nuclear capability, the entire region will enter a crazy nuclear arms race, with consequences that I don't need to elaborate on," he said.
Concerning the stalled indirect peace talks with Syria, the foreign minister criticized the demands to negotiate according to the Syrian precondition of a recognition of the 1967 borders.
"How exactly will we conduct negotiations if we already agree to the 1967 borders? he asked rhetorically. "I am prepared to get on a plane and fly to Damascus tomorrow, but not with any commitment to withdrawing to the 1967 borders. What a demand? What a way to conduct talks? As long as things remain like this, it's just not serious."
On the Palestinian issue, Lieberman said that the "message needs to be crystal clear."
"We have had 16 years of experience since the Oslo Accords. What have we achieved? I saw the declarations of [former prime minister] Ehud Olmert in the paper that he had offered the Palestinians the right of return, the division of Jerusalem and a return to the 1967 borders," he said. "I didn't hear a denial from Olmert of the report. The Palestinian response was no."
"I remember the Ariel Sharon government that transferred thousand of Jews from Gush Katif. The response to that was Kassams and Hamas rule in Gaza," Lieberman continued. "Ehud Barak went with [former Palestinian Authority chairman Yasser] Arafat to Camp David and offered everything. We got the Second Intifada. The diplomatic process hit a dead end at the end of three years of the previous government. You can't force peace, you build peace."
The foreign minister outlined a three-pronged approach for solving the conflict with the Palestinians.
"There are three components, in the following order," he said. "1, Security - what interests Israelis is security. They don't want to see Kassams, they don't want to see a terror attack like yesterday and more kidnappings of soldiers; 2, Economy - that is what interests the Palestinians; and 3, stability - the Gaza situation cannot exactly be described as neighborly."