In his characteristically blunt manner, Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman did
not mince words when he accused the international community of abandoning Israel
on Wednesday, just as it did the Jewish people during the
“Expressions and promises of commitment to Israel’s security
from all around the world remind me of similar commitments made to
Czechoslovakia in ’38,” Liberman said. “My sense is that all the promises and
commitments to Israel’s security are mere words.”
True, it is election
season. Liberman’s comments, however, carried particular resonance because he
did not utter them in Hebrew at a political rally of his right-wing Yisrael
Beytenu party. He said them in decent English in the sober setting of the Daniel
Herzliya hotel at a gathering of ambassadors and attachés from around the world
at the first Jerusalem Post Diplomatic Conference.
“When push comes to
shove, many world leaders will be willing to sacrifice Israel without batting an
eyelid in order to appease the radical Islamic militants and to ensure quiet for
themselves,” the foreign minister added.
“We are not willing to become a
second Czechoslovakia and sacrifice our vital security
Liberman’s comments came in response to the harsh
condemnation of Israel by European foreign ministers earlier in the week over
its new housing plans in the E1 area over the 1967 Green Line and close to
“Despite clear announcements by Hamas leaders that they will
never accept or respect any agreement with Israel and their intention to destroy
the State of Israel, the Europeans decided to place pressure only our side,”
He voiced strong opposition to any chance of Israel
returning to the pre-1967 lines, warning that this could place Judea and Samaria
in a similar situation to that of “Hamastan” in the Gaza Strip.
will happen the next day?” he asked.
His harsh words of frustration were
followed by the much softer tone of former foreign minister Tzipi
Although they didn’t listen to each other’s speeches, it was
almost as if they were playing “good cop, bad cop.”
Livni, who is running
at the helm of a new center-left list – The Tzipi Livni Party – tried to woo the
diplomats by stressing the importance of the bonds between their countries and
the Jewish state.
“It is not a favor to Israel to keep and to preserve
Israel’s security needs. It is and should be part of the understanding that a
secure Israel is in the interest of the international community as well, and not
just our own interest. Part of our need is to have the world’s support for our
security needs in this tough neighborhood,” she said.
“Not everyone is
against us and not everyone is anti- Semitic,” she added. “It’s true that there
is criticism over the current policy, but this must be separated from the
support of Israel as a state.”
Livni rejected the parallel Liberman had
drawn with the Shoah.
“The comparison between Israel’s situation today to
the Holocaust is disrespectful, wrong and completely unacceptable,” she said.
“The situation of Israeli citizens today is in no way similar to the situation
of European Jews from that time.”
She argued that it was in Israel’s
interest to resume talks with the Palestinians immediately on a two-state
“Restarting negotiations will not only preserve Israel’s values
as a Jewish and democratic state, it will also shut the floodgates and give
Israel back its legitimacy to take military action when we are called on to
protect its security interests,” she said.
“Now that the Palestinians won
in the UN, you should tell the Palestinians to relaunch negotiations with
Israel,” she urged the ambassadors. “Maybe there is a chance
Liberman and Livni touched not only on issues affecting voters in
the January 22 election, but also on Israel’s relations with Europe, the US and
the rest of the world.
They employed contrasting approaches, but they
both addressed the same deep well of frustration over international criticism
and a desire for international support.
They appealed to the ambassadors
as representatives of a nation still seeking peace with its neighbors at a time
when it is countering an unprecedented campaign of delegitimization and
genocidal threats from enemies such as Hamas, Hezbollah and Iran.
their convergence at the Post conference, the divergent approaches presented by
Liberman and Livni provide two very different visions for voters to ponder when
they go to the polls next month.