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Lieberman: 'Russia is No Switzerland'

Foreign Minister Lieberman: 'Twenty Years After the Fall Of Communist Regime, Don't Expect Russia To Have Democratic System Like U.S.'

'Renewal Of Israeli-Palestinian Contacts In Jordan Are Doomed To Failure; Palestinians Plan To Internationalize The Conflict At UN'

'Nothing Can Stop Iran's Nuclear Weapons Project But Stiff Sanctions On Its Central Bank & Oil Industry'

Avigdor Lieberman (Photo: Amit Shabi)

 Israel's For Minister Avigdor Lieberman, notorious for his tough talk, pulled no punches when he briefed the Knesset's Foreign Affairs & Defense Committee in Jerusalem. Lieberman commented on Russia's controversial election, new Palestinian peace contacts, Iran, Jordan and Turkey. Although Lieberman's diplomatic discourse dealt with the numerous problems, the Foreign Minister rejected any notion that Israel was facing diplomatic isolation on his watch.

 'Russia is no Switzerland and never will be!' That was Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman's response to those critics who blasted him for praising Russia's controversial election that swept Vladimir Putin back into power. In Moscow, Lieberman had also been photographed with Putin shortly after the charges of vote-rigging. Israel's top diplomat explained it this way: 'Twenty years after the communist downfall, don't expect Russia to have a democratic system like the U.S.' And he went on to say that many foreign embassies in Moscow had forecast election results that were very similar to the actual votes and this indicated there had not been a massive vote theft. Moreover, demonstrations were legal in Russia and foreign TV networks were free to cover the election.

Dmitry Medveded and Vladimir Putin (photo: www.kremlin.ru)

Palestinians: Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas had agreed to new Israeli peace contacts in Jordan, but it was all a sham. Abbas has decided to simply go through the motions for the benefit of the international quartet, while laying the groundwork for blaming Israel for their eventual breakdown. However Abbas was bent on 'internationalization of the conflict' after time ran out on January 26th. He would then head back to the UN Security Council and the International Court in the Hague for their intervention rather than negotiate with Israel. In Lieberman's view, Abbas would again seek UN recognition of Palestine, what he had failed to achieve last September during the UN General Assembly. In short: 'Anyone who talked of a possible breakthrough with the Palestinians had no idea what he was talking about'. In light of the circumstances, the best Israel could hope for was management of the conflict.

As for the Palestinians, tension was running very high between Abbas's Fatah movement and Hamas. And a new twist, Abbas was now trying to include and represent Israel's Arab citizens in any future peace agreement. ( In the past, Lieberman himself designated Israeli Arabs as a future threat to Israel and proposed land swaps as part of an overall peace accord - heavily populated Arab areas inside Israel, such as the 'Arab Triangle' could be exchanged for West Bank areas adjacent to Israel.

Iran: The international community had now reached a consensus that Iran has no intention of halting its nuclear weapons project. There was only one way to deter Iran and that was by 'real sanctions on Iran's central bank and oil industry'.

Egypt: 'Since the revolution last year, one million babies had been born in Egypt'. This was now the mission of the Egyptian army - how to feed them and resuscitate the economy that has been devastated by the drying up of tourism and paralysis of production at all levels. In fact, the army had abdicated its military aspirations and was concentrating on preserving its hold on the economy.

Turkey: 'Israel could go on bended knee to Turkey as much as you like but Erdogan will not agree to restore relations with Israel'. That was the Foreign Minister's reply to Labor Knesset member Binyamin Ben Eliezer who stressed the need to improve ties with Ankara. Ben Eliezer disclosed that he had sent a personal message to the Turkish Prime Minister who had replied. Details were not disclosed.

Europeans: Israel's Foreign Ministry was recently in a verbal clash with Britain, France, Germany and Portugal. The four EU members had sharply criticized Israel for announcing new housing plans in the Jerusalem suburb of Gilo that is just over the 1967 line. The Foreign Ministry had sent back an angry riposte that Jerusalem was Israel's eternal capital and on the day that the four critics were busying themselves with the building of homes, scores of Arab civilians were being murdered in Middle East. In so doing, the European countries had shown they were 'irrelevant' to the real problems of the Middle East. Lieberman said the knee-jerk criticism of Israel had crossed a 'red line' and could not be ignored. (Be that as it may, a pending European embargo on Iranian oil is far from being irrelevant when it comes to the international campaign to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons).

Summing up, Foreign Minister Lieberman rejected the allegation that Israel was facing diplomatic isolation during his watch. It was true the UN was a more problematic arena than other international organizations like the OECD where the Islamic bloc did not rule the roost. But Lieberman concluded that his foreign ministry in Jerusalem is working overtime to answer all the requests from foreign leaders and dignitaries to visit the Jewish state.

David Essing

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