Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman 311 (R).
(photo credit: REUTERS/Baz Ratner)
Prop up the Middle East’s middle class today, and tomorrow it will be much
easier to solve intractable political problems, Foreign Minister Avigdor
Lieberman told a gathering of European foreign ministers on
Speaking in Vilnius to a meeting of the Organization for
Security and Cooperation in Europe, Lieberman said a successful middle class was
the backbone of a healthy society, and that its formation was essential in
establishing societies that reject violence as a way to solve problems, both
domestically and internationally.
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Lieberman said the European experience
has shown that the more successful a country’s middle class is, the more
successful and stable that country is itself. As a result, he suggested that
international efforts in the Middle East focus on economic development and
building up the middle class.
Long an advocate of developing the West
Bank economy as a necessary prelude to being able to reach a final agreement
with the Palestinians, Lieberman said that no “abstract formula” will work to
solve political problems in the absence of a strong middle class and an
equitable division of resources.
On the contrary, he said, paying too
much attention to highly charged political issues only impedes the advancement
of economic development.
“My suggestion is to bypass highly disputed
political issues, which cannot be resolved in the present,” he said. “Once
economic growth is allowed to take root and enable the formation of a strong
middle class, I have no doubt that the difficult political issues, which seem
irresolvable today, will lend themselves to resolution.”
that while there were many reasons for the current “disturbances” in the Arab
world, including ethnic friction and demands for basic liberty and democracy,
the primary reasons were economic: huge socioeconomic disparities and an unjust
division of resources.
He met on the sidelines of the meeting with a
parade of foreign ministers, including those from Russia, Canada, Sweden,
Latvia, Azerbaijan, the Netherlands, Finland and Latvia.
He also met with
Georgian Foreign Minister Grigol Vashadze and invited him to visit Israel next
According to a statement put out by Lieberman’s office, the two
men expressed satisfaction that an episode that had cast a cloud over bilateral
ties – the imprisonment of Israeli businessmen Roni Fuchs and Ze’ev Frankel for
trying to bribe a Georgian government official – was over, and it would now be
possible to return to good and normal ties between the two
countries. Georgia’s President Mikheil Saakashvili pardoned the pair last
In another diplomatic development, Jeffrey Feltman, US assistant
secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs – currently on a regional tour – met
in Jerusalem on Tuesday with Yaakov Amidror, the head of the National Security
Council; Amos Gilad, the head of the Defense Ministry’s diplomatic- security
bureau: Rafi Barak, director-general of the Foreign Ministry; and officials from
the Foreign Ministry’s Center for Political Analysis, which is the ministry’s
political intelligence bureau. The talks focused on regional issues.