Lieberman and Barak 311.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The Foreign Ministry’s statement on Wednesday slamming four European countries
for their condemnation of Israel stirred a mini-tempest on Thursday... but in
Israel, not Europe.
issued for 1,028 units beyond Green LineRioting
Jews to be tried in army courts
Defense Minister Ehud Barak, in an Israel Radio
interview, characterized the angry Foreign Ministry statement as an example of
being right, but not smart.
This in turn elicited a snide remark by
sources close to Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, saying they don’t respond
to comments made by heads of parties with fewer than six Knesset seats. Barak’s
Independence faction has five.
The Foreign Ministry issued a sharply
worded response on Wednesday to a statement put out by Britain, France, German
and Portugal – the EU’s four members on the UN Security Council – saying they
risked losing credibility and relevance with their reflexive condemnations of
Israeli construction beyond the Green Line and selective interpretation of
But Barak, in a relatively rare instance of a senior
minister criticizing the actions of another ministry, said that while the
European positions were mistaken, no Israeli statement was going to make those
“We don’t accept their position on these matters,
[but] they are very relevant,” he said of the European countries.
said he met recently with the national security advisers of both Britain and
France, and that on an issue very relevant to Israel – sanctions against Iran –
they were extremely supportive.
Barak said that the Foreign Ministry was
correct in issuing a response to the Europeans, but that it should have been
“We still need them for many things,” he said, adding that Israel
turns to Germany on strategic issues, and to France and Britain to keep Israel
from being brought before the International Criminal Court.
think we have an interest in turning them into bitter and insulted foes,” he
said, adding that Germany, France and Britain were not “Tanzania, Mauritania and
Tripolitania. These are very important countries in the world, and we have no
interest in increasing the tension.”
The Prime Minister’s Office,
meanwhile, gave full backing to the Foreign Ministry.
Senior officials in
the Foreign Ministry said that the initiative for the statement was taken by the
top diplomats in the ministry, and not by Lieberman. A source close to Lieberman
said that it was surprising that Barak, “with his great successes, continues to
give advise to others.”
According to a Foreign Ministry official, what
bothered the diplomats was that the four European countries backed the
Palestinian interpretation of a Quartet statement from September 23 that laid
down a formula for renewing Israeli-Palestinian talks.
issued by Britain, France, Germany and Portugal called on the parties “to
present as soon as possible to the Quartet comprehensive proposals on territory
This contradicted a statement put out by representatives
of the Quartet – which includes the US, EU, Russia and UN – just last week,
saying that these comprehensive proposals should be presented by the sides to
each other in direct talks.
The Palestinians said earlier this month that
while they have presented the Quartet with comprehensive proposals on security
and territory, Israel has refused to do so, creating the impression that Israel
was obstructing the process.
Israel’s position is that the comprehensive
proposals that the Quartet discussed in September are to come out of direct
negotiations between the sides, and not as result of an indirect process whereby
the Quartet mediates between the two sides. The US has publicly backed this
According to Foreign Ministry official, if Israel would have
left that comment unanswered, then Israel’s silence would have been interpreted
as accepting this as the new frame of reference.
Former prime minister
Ehud Olmert blasted Netanyahu for not intervening and stopping the Foreign
Ministry from releasing the controversial statement.
“I often ask myself
whether Israel decided to declare war on the entire world?” Olmert said in a
speech to the Farmers Federation of Israel in Ramat Gan. “Where is the voice of
the prime minister to renounce these terrible words? Where is the policy that
would enable these countries to stand by Israel as they did before?”
contributed to this report.