Barak unfazed by criticism from Tanzania

Refuses to apologize to African country after it protests being called "irrelevant."

Barak 311 (photo credit: Ariel Harmoni / Defense Ministry)
Barak 311
(photo credit: Ariel Harmoni / Defense Ministry)
Defense Minister Ehud Barak has declined to apologize to Tanzania, despite a letter from the African country protesting a Barak statement that its representatives in Israel found offensive.
In an interview with Israel Radio’s Ayala Hasson last Thursday, Barak criticized the Foreign Ministry for warning that adopting the Palestinian position on how to advance diplomatic talks would make England, France and Germany irrelevant.
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“Germany, France and England are not Tanzania, Mauritania or Tripolitania [a region in Libya],” said Barak, noting places whose names rhyme with England in Hebrew.
“These are very important, very relevant countries and we don’t have an interest in increasing tensions with them or making them bitter enemies.”
Tanzania’s honorary consul in Israel, Kasbian Nuriel Chirich, wrote a letter to Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman condemning Barak’s remarks and inviting a representative of Israel to visit his country.
“In his effort to praise the importance of key countries in Europe, he chose to put down Tanzania and compare it to a country that doesn’t even exist,” Chirich wrote. “Tanzania is the largest country in East Africa, rich in natural resources, with a population of some 46 million peace-seeking people and a gross domestic product of more than $58 billion.”
Chirich noted that Israel and Tanzania have had diplomatic, security, and economic relations since Tanzania’s independence and that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has recently met African leaders and is attempting to deepen ties with the continent amid the strengthening of Islamic extremism there.
“Tanzania is an important country that Israel should not ignore,” Chirich wrote.
Barak’s associates said he did not intend to express regret for his statements about Tanzania, which they said Barak had made on multiple occasions.
“Maintaining relations with England, Germany and France is indeed more urgent for Israel than with Tanzania, which has less influence from Israel’s standpoint,” a source close to Barak said.