Lieberman 'disappointed' in PM but no coalition crisis

FM "surprised" by Netanyahu's opposition to bill calling for parliamentary inquiry committee that would have investigated left-wing and other NGOs.

Avigdor Lieberman 521 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Avigdor Lieberman 521
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman expressed disappointment on Sunday with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s opposition to an Israel Beiteinu-sponsored bill that would have initiated a parliamentary inquiry committee that would have investigated left-wing and other non-governmental organizations.
Due to Netanyahu’s opposition and his decision not to enforce coalition discipline in the vote, the bill is expected to be defeated by a wide margin on Wednesday. Lieberman noted that 25 parliamentary inquiry committees had been formed with the Likud’s support, including seven chaired by Likud MKs and one by Ahmed Tibi (United Arab List-Ta’al).
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“I deeply respect the prime minister and that’s why I was so surprised that he suddenly said the Knesset did not need to be an investigator,” Lieberman told reporters outside Sunday’s cabinet meeting. “Why is it only the proposal of Israel Beiteinu that the heads of Likud oppose so fiercely? I think it looks odd. The Likud’s strange stance really bothers me and Israel Beiteinu.
We won’t use this to cause a coalition crisis. I see no reason why this coalition shouldn’t last until 2013, but I certainly will insist that the heads of Likud display more loyalty and collegiality to their main coalition partner.”
Lieberman blasted the left-wing NGOs that he said cooperated with the Goldstone Commission and have been active in efforts to harm Israel’s image around the world. He accused the press of improperly explaining the bill.
“What I have unfortunately seen over the past few days is an attempt to delegitimize Israel Beiteinu and our proposal,” Lieberman said. “I have never seen such a large quantity of lies, defamation, and distortions. These NGOs are not leftist groups or human-rights organizations. These are terrorist organizations.”
The organizations that would be investigated by such a committee responded harshly to Lieberman’s comments.
“If the foreign minister doesn’t file a police complaint and pass on the information in his possession within 24 hours, everyone will know that he is a liar and his sole purpose is to incite against the [NGOs],” said Michael Sfard, legal adviser to NGO Yesh Din.
Sfard said Lieberman’s operating methods were “reminiscent of the methods applied by dark regimes in order to deal with those deemed as government critics.”
Netanyahu responded to Lieberman by saying that “Israel is a democracy that defends itself against attempts to delegitimize it in the international sphere. This is the reason that we passed the law against boycotts of the State of Israel and its citizens. I think that it is an important law. However, we must act systematically and prudently vis-à-vis the steps that we are taking. Things need to be corrected. But we must do so methodically and cautiously and in any case we must protect our system of law and the rule of law, the courts and our enforcement agencies.”
Netanyahu said that by acting in a “restrained” manner, his government could “prevent the continuation of the delegitimization campaign that is defaming Israel. We have been, remain and always will be the only democracy that upholds law and individual rights in the Middle East.
“I hope, by the way, that perhaps this will change in the future, but it certainly does not seem so in the present.”

Tovah Lazaroff contributed to this report.