Shalev: Liberman conflict with PM may be for show
Former UN ambassador says government officials have "talking heads syndrome," predisposing them to contradicting each other.
GABRIELA SHALEV Photo: Courtesy
Former UN ambassador Prof. Gabriela Shalev said she is “not sure that
there is a true conflict between” policy statements made by Prime Minister
Binyamin Netanyahu and Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman, in an interview with
The Jerusalem Post on Thursday.
She added that the perceived conflict is
likely just for public consumption.
Shalev was referring to the current
media and diplomatic uproar over recent comments by Liberman about the need to
push out Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, who Liberman does not
consider a real peace partner. Netanyahu subsequently disavowed his
statement, claiming it does not represent Israeli policy.
that “Netanyahu gains from showing the world that there are even less moderate
voices in his government.”
Even if Netanyahu may privately agree with
Liberman on some of his controversial initiatives, she said, the prime minister
can distance himself publicly and “show himself to the world as a more moderate
Against this backdrop, Shalev, speaking on Wednesday at a
conference for foreign students on international law sponsored by the
organization StandWithUs, criticized the phenomenon of “talking heads” in Israel
in which top officials like the foreign minister make policy statements against
that of the prime minister and the government.
In her remarks at the
conference, she said that while ambassador to the UN – where she served until
2010 – she somewhat envied the US foreign policy apparatus in which, more often
than not, all of the White House and foreign affairs officials speak with one
In her comments to the Post, Shalev added that Liberman making
remarks opposing the state’s official policy can make “performing the job of
ambassador very difficult.”
Shalev – who is currently president of the
Higher Academic Council and dean of the Faculty of Law at Ono Academic College
in Kiryat Ono – mentioned other instances where Liberman has contradicted
Netanyahu’s policy, such as saying peace would not be possible for a long-time
after the prime minister’s famous Bar-Ilan speech in favor of pushing for the
In some of Liberman’s remarks to the UN, Shalev said,
she had the impression that he was “representing his party Yisrael Beytenu to
the world and not the State of Israel.”
Despite policy differences with
Liberman, Shalev said that while ambassador she always “felt and knew she had
full freedom” and that in personal contacts with Liberman he was “always a
gentleman.” She also said that especially representing Israel at a body
like the UN, she never felt that he, or any other politician, was really her
Rather, she believed that her boss was whatever she believed to be
in the best interests of the State of Israel.
Asked if she believed
Liberman was qualified to be foreign minister, she said that Israel is a
“democratic state, there were elections, Netanyahu is the prime minister and he
has the right to form a government.”
She continued her answer saying that
Yisrael Beytenu is a “big, important party, many people trust Netanyahu as a
leader.” But she also stated that a “foreign minister should express more
positive, balanced attitudes” towards the world and the peace process.