Lieberman: We can't let ourselves be Turkish punching-bag

FM "surprised" by reactions to his comments on Turkey; Barak says we shouldn't turn differences of opinion with Ankara into disputes; Ben-Eliezer: Netanyahu should stop Lieberman's outbursts.

Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman 311 (do not publish again) (photo credit: Flash 90)
Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman 311 (do not publish again)
(photo credit: Flash 90)
Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman again attacked Turkey and the Palestinian Authority on Monday, during an Israel Beiteinu faction meeting, saying "in terms of Turkey we are trying to hold back but we cannot let ourselves become a punching-bag."
On the issue of the Palestinians, Lieberman said, " If the Palestinians want to talk to us, they are welcome.. If you don't want to talk then there is no need."
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"Israel did everything possible so there would be talks. Israel Beiteinu did its part. There was the Bar Ilan speech, decision on the freeze, which were difficult for Israel Beiteinu  and me in particular. But we were willing to go along with it. But what came out of it? What's the result? We were ready, we are ready," Lieberman stated.
"I was very surprised by the reactions to the comments I made on Sunday to the ambassadors and counsel-generals," the foreign minister said.
Lieberman went on to say, "I don't think I presented anything unknown or different from what I always say."
"We hear the other side can do everything and we can't do anything, and we have to be quiet. At this rate, we should invite the British mandate back," Lieberman said.
Defense Minister Ehud Barak said Monday that Israel's aim today is to normalize relations with Turkey and does not intend to deepen the divide that exists between the two countries.
During a visit to the Elbit Systems factory in Haifa, Barak said Turkey is an important state and Israel will not turn differences of opinion into disputes. 
Barak was responding to comments made by Lieberman Sunday.
Earlier on Monday, Lieberman had defended his right to his own opinion, standing by comments he had made regarding Turkey the previous day.
Speaking to Israel Radio, Lieberman insisted that he is not a spokesman for the prime minister, and that he had spoken at a closed Foreign Ministry conference, where different opinions can be raised.
Directly after the comments were made on Sunday, the Prime Minister's Office released a reaction, saying that only Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu represents the government's stance.
Also Monday, Industry, Trade and Labor Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer criticized Lieberman, saying he should not be representing the government. Speaking to Israel Radio, Ben-Eliezer said that Netanyahu should stop Lieberman from publicly expressing opinions which are not those of the government.
The Labor minister emphasized that while he does not believe Israel should apologize to the Turks for the raid of the Mavi Marmara, maintaining good relations with the government in Ankara is in Israel's best strategic interests.
Also speaking Monday, opposition leader Tzipi Livni said that Netanyahu is not correct in saying that the foreign minister does not represent the government's position. Rather, she said, Netanyahu is responsible for Lieberman.
During an interview with Army Radio, Livni said that Lieberman's harsh criticism of Turkey exposes a serious problem with Netanyahu's stance on the issue and said that Israel deserves a braver leader.
Gil Hoffman contributed to this report.