Lieberman nixes appointment of Arad as UK envoy

FM says Netanyahu's decision to make Uzi Arad ambassador to London will not be honored: "We don't need an outside appointment."

By GIL STERN STERN HOFFMAN
February 14, 2011 15:40
3 minute read.
Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman

Lieberman thoughtful 311. (photo credit: Associated Press)

Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman flexed his political muscles on Monday when he announced that he would not accept Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s decision to appoint Netanyahu’s national security adviser Uzi Arad as ambassador to London.

Netanyahu’s office had leaked to Sunday’s Yisrael Hayom newspaper that he had decided to appoint current ambassador to the United Kingdom Ron Prosor as the next ambassador to the United Nations and that Arad would replace Prosor in London.

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Lieberman, who was enraged to learn about Arad’s appointment from the newspaper, called him and told him he was staying in Jerusalem.

“I don’t remember there ever being such massive interference on key appointments?” Lieberman said at a Knesset press conference. “I read with shock in one of the newspapers that it was the prime minister who decided to appoint Prosor and Arad. The prime minister doesn’t have to fight for credit. It does not befit him. I’ll consider his point of view, but all the decisions on appointments will be made solely by the foreign minister.”

Lieberman said he respected Arad and considered him a knowledgeable person with good connections internationally but that due to the circumstances, he would not be ambassador in London. He said he preferred to appoint an experienced candidate from the Foreign Ministry, noting that the ministry had diplomats who were born in London.

Netanyahu declined to respond to Lieberman’s move when the Likud faction convened shortly thereafter. He also instructed his associates not to respond so as not to play into the hands of the foreign minister.

“You never regret what you don’t say,” a source close to Netanyahu said. “Does the prime minister have a choice? He can’t kick Lieberman out of the coalition.”

Netanyahu’s associates admitted that the leak to the newspaper was a mistake.

They revealed that even Arad himself was surprised by the report, which he learned of when he arrived from a visit to Washington and heard congratulatory messages from London on his cellphone.

Sources close to Netanyahu said the possible appointment was discussed with both Lieberman and Arad and neither should have been surprised by it.

Lieberman denied reports that he was considering taking his Israel Beiteinu party out of the coalition following an expected decision by the State’s Attorney’s Office to indict him on corruption charges by the end of the month.

“The decision of the State’s Attorney will not impact whether Israel Beiteinu leaves the coalition or stays in the coalition,” he said. “We don’t want to mislead anyone or allow anyone to celebrate. I’ve said it dozens of times, but I’ll say it again. We have no intention to leave.”

Lieberman said that if the coalition would be run smartly, the government could last until the end of its term. But he lashed out at the Likud for preventing the advancement of legislation that is important to Israel Beiteinu regarding civil marriage, conversion, loyalty oaths, and changing the electoral system.

“We didn’t expect to implement a hundred percent of what we agreed on in the coalition agreement, but we thought we could get 70 or 80 percent,” Lieberman said. “We have the power to pass some of the legislation without the support of the coalition. Our commitment to our voters comes before our commitment to the coalition.”

Israel Beiteinu already intends to vote against the coalition on Wednesday on a bill opposing VAT on water and another recognizing IDF conversions. Netanyahu asked his chief of staff Natan Eshel and coalition chairman Ze’ev Elkin to negotiate with Lieberman and try to reach a compromise.


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