In a highly unusual step, Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman held a conference call with diplomatic reporters on Monday to announce the sidelining of an unnamed senior Foreign Ministry official whom he accused of leaking misinformation regarding country’s preparation for the looming boycott threat.
“For the last three days I have been reading reports citing a senior official in the foreign ministry briefing reporters that it is not possible to stop the boycotts, that the political echelon was not working on this properly, not doing enough, not making decisions,” he said.
Liberman said that he decided to keep that official – of whom he said, “I think I know who it is very well” – away from the relevant information.
Among the reports that apparently triggered Liberman’s fury was a Haaretz story on Friday saying the government ministries were sharply divided on how to handle the increasing boycott threat, were not well coordinated, and were mired in turf wars.
“There is full coordination between the Foreign Ministry, the Prime Minister’s Office and the Strategic Affairs Ministry on this issue,” Liberman said. He denied any power struggles and turf wars, and said that the coordination was “unprecedented.”
During his years as foreign minister, Liberman has taken a very tough approach against those who he believes have leaked information.
Indeed, in the past a few ministry officials over whom Liberman has ultimate authority have had disciplinary action initiated against them, and even been removed from their positions.
Excluding someone from access to information, rather than initiating disciplinary measures, may indicate that the “culprit” in this case in Liberman’s eyes is a political, not professional, appointment in the ministry.
The foreign minister said that within the next month and a half the country would recognize the strategy for confronting the boycott threat, adding that the government was taking the threat seriously, though not becoming hysterical.
Liberman said the Zionist movement and Israel have had to deal with boycotts ever since 1921, when the first Arab boycott of Jewish businesses was declared. The first Arab League declaration of a boycott began in 1945, he said. In addition, the French arms embargo in 1967, Liberman said, paradoxically led to Israel’s development of its own military and aviation industries.
And, he added, despite all the talk of boycotts and divestment, Israel’s trade with the European Union grew in 2013 by some eight percent from the year before.