Liberman urges easing of tensions with US in low-key return to Foreign Ministry

Newly reinstalled FM makes no reference to negotiations with Palestinians, P5+1 talks with Iran.

FM Liberman, PM Netanyahu, and Finance Min. Lapid 370 150 (photo credit: REUTERS)
FM Liberman, PM Netanyahu, and Finance Min. Lapid 370 150
(photo credit: REUTERS)
If Avigdor Liberman swept into the Foreign Ministry like a lion in April 2009, trashing the Annapolis agreement, he entered like a lamb on Tuesday, urging people to calm the over-heated rhetoric in relations with the US.
“This was a different Liberman,” said one Foreign Ministry worker who attended an all-ministry ceremony marking the minister’s return after his acquittal last week of fraud and breach of trust charges.
“See what a difference four years and a never-ending trial can make,” the worker remarked.
Liberman, who said of himself Tuesday that he was not prone to sentimentality, exhibited a bit of it when addressing the workers, saying that it was indeed good to “return home” and that he was moved to see that a pen he had left on his desk when he departed last December remained in exactly the same place on his return.
He told the workers that his first appointment Tuesday morning was with US Ambassador Dan Shapiro. He then went on to urge calm in the current dust-up with the US over the Iranian issue.
“Our relations with the US are paramount, and without them we can’t maneuver in the present world,” he said.
“The disagreements are natural and always existed, and simply do not need to be heard the way they are being heard outside. I think that a calming siren needs to be [sounded].”
Liberman said everyone realized that the relations with the US were vital and stable, and nothing could change that. He noted that disagreements with the US had existed before the creation of the state, and every decade thereafter, and that they needed to be handled in the most natural way possible.
One official said it was no coincidence that the only issue Liberman addressed during his remarks, besides the long-standing labor dispute in the ministry, was relations with the US – an indication that, unlike in his first term from 2009 to 2012, he intended to take an active part in the day-to-day managing of that relationship.
During his previous stint at the helm of the ministry, Liberman was content to let defense minister Ehud Barak and the Prime Minister’s Office run the relations with the US. This time, it seems, he plans to be more involved.
One official said that Shapiro had cultivated a good relationship with Liberman, remaining in close contact with him while the latter was out of the Foreign Ministry.
Liberman made no reference at all during his remarks to the negotiations with the Palestinians or the ongoing P5+1 talks with Iran, both issues on the top of Israel’s diplomatic agenda.
His first act as foreign minister was to recommend that Ze’ev Elkin remain in his position as deputy foreign minister, something the government approved Tuesday morning.
Regarding the labor dispute that has hampered the ministry’s operation for months and cast a huge pall on morale, Liberman said that this needed to be resolved “as soon as possible.”
He was greeted warmly by workers’ committee head Yair Frumer, who said a full-time minister was necessary to put an end to the labor dispute and get back responsibilities poached from the ministry during Liberman’s absence.