Ex-diplomats react to Israeli FM statements
JERUSALEM - Daily News with wires | 1/4/2010 12:00:00 AM |
Former Israeli directors general criticized hawkish Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman for reprimanding Israeli ambassadors.
Former Israeli director generals criticized hawkish Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman for reprimanding Israeli ambassadors, in what he described as a tendency to placate their host countries excessively, local media reported Monday.
Lieberman told Israel's ambassadors over the weekend to stop "groveling" and defend Israel’s national honor. "That is the comment of a kindergarten teacher – not the foreign minister," Alon Liel, who served as director general of the Israeli foreign ministry between November 2000 and April 2001, told daily Haaretz.
"I have seen that some ambassadors identify themselves with the other side to such an extent that they are all the time trying to justify and explain," the ultra-nationalist Lieberman thundered during a closed meeting with some 150 envoys at the foreign ministry an official from the ministry said on condition of anonymity, reported Agence France-Presse.
Jerusalem Post ran a story on Monday, citing that unnamed officials in the foreign ministry assessed that Lieberman was directing his remarks especially at Ambassador Gaby Levy, posted in Turkey, who is making efforts to mend ties between Ankara and Jerusalem. Born in Turkey’s Aegean town of Bergama, Levy was appointed to Turkey two-and-a-half years ago. “Terms like 'national honor' have value in the Middle East," Lieberman said as his audience listened in stunned silence.
"There must not be an attitude of obsequiousness and self-deprecation, and the need to always justify the other side. This is the wrong approach," the Soviet-born Israeli minister added. "The era of groveling is over," he said. "We must be on good terms and respect the host nations, but we will not tolerate insults and challenges,” Lieberman said.
"We will not turn the other cheek. There will be a response to everything."
[HH] Worsening ties
Turkey has issued severe criticism of Israel since Operation Cast Lead in the Gaza Strip last winter, and the phrasing of some of the statements by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan sent shockwaves through Israel.
Lieberman opposes Turkey resuming its role as mediator between Israel and Syria in indirect peace talks and said it would not be given the role of go-between so long as he remains in his position. When one of Lieberman's former advisers laughed during his speech, Lieberman said he was laughing in agreement to the foreign minister’s words. "Some are laughing and some are crying," Ambassador Levy said.
Lieberman insisted that "ambassadors need to be in good relations and respect the host country, but we will not tolerate insults and affronts."
The leader of the far-right Yisrael Beitenu party is known for controversial statements. “The entire image of his first year in the post is one of big disappointment,” said Liel, criticizing Lieberman’s statements.
Liel had expressed support for Lieberman shortly after he took up the job, but now says the appointment of Lieberman has in effect left Israel without a foreign minister.
The other former ministry heads who took issue with Lieberman's remarks are Yossi Beilin, who said the ambassadors do not take Lieberman seriously, and Eitan Ben-Zur.
The foreign ministry is usually left wing and has more dovish policies, an Israeli journalist told the Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review.
“The foreign ministry is now headed by a far-right politician,” said Udi Segal, correspondent for diplomatic affairs on Channel 2 News. “Even if there is essence and some logic in the new policy of not groveling, in the case of Turkey, this is not good timing to insult people that try to reconcile the two countries,” said Segal.