Israel’s foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman of the hard-right nationalist Yisrael Beiteinu party, has bluntly told the foreign ministers of Spain and France to fix problems in Europe before telling Israel what to do, according to reports in the local press.
“Solve your own problems in Europe before you come to us with complaints. Maybe then I will be open to accepting your suggestions,” he told France’s Bernard Kouchner and Spain’s Miguel Angel Moratinos at a dinner on Sunday evening (10 October) in Jerusalem.
Mr Lieberman said that after Europe had solved conflicts in the Caucasus as well as the ongoing disputes over Cyprus and Kosovo, then the Jewish state “will listen to your advice,” reports the conservative Jerusalem Post.
Now, notice the way the reporting goes out of its way to try to say something about an Israeli talking this kind of sense: “Lieberman of the hard-right nationalist party”; “the conservative Jerusalem Post”. Notice any shades of similarity between this and how non-compliant Serbs are portrayed by the same media?
He also suggested that Europe is sacrificing Israel the way it abandoned Czechoslovakia in 1939.
“In 1938 Europe placated Hitler, sacrificing Czechoslovakia instead of supporting it, and gained nothing from it,” he said, according to Haaretz, the left-leaning Israeli daily.
“We will not be the Czechoslovakia of 2010, we will stand up for Israel’s vital interests.”
Mr Lieberman suggested that the international community was trying to compensate for its failures elsewhere in the world by pushing for a peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians.
“What about the struggle in Somalia, North Korea, Zimbabwe, Afghanistan and Sudan?” he continued.
“Instead of talking now with the Arab League about the future of a referendum in Sudan, or discussing the explosive situation in Iraq in 2012, the international community is applying great pressure on Israel.”
The strong words came as Mr Kouchner reportedly signalled that the creation of a Palestinian state may have to come via the United Nations Security Council if peace negotiations falter.
In an interview with Palestinian paper Al-Ayyam, the French minister said that Paris would prefer a two-state solution to be agreed by both sides, but that the former option could not be ruled out.
“We want to be able to soon welcome the state of Palestine to the United Nations. This is the hope and the desire of the international community, and the sooner that can happen the better,” he said.
“The international community cannot be satisfied with a prolonged deadlock. I therefore believe that one cannot rule out in principle the Security Council option,” he said.
“But the establishment of the Palestinian state must come as a result of the peace process and be the fruit of bilateral negotiations.”
Those are some considerations that the Serbs — the other Czechoslovakia — were not afforded. And the “prolonged” Kosovo “deadlock” — unlike the decades-old Palestinian one — lasted only eight years before Serbia wasn’t afforded a negotiated solution.
The two ministers also met with President Shimon Peres, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, defence minister Ehud Barak and Tzipi Livni, a former foreign minister and leader of the opposition centrist Kadima party.
The other government leaders told the two Europeans that the international community must be flexible over the issue of a freeze on the construction of settlements in the occupied [sic] Palestinian territories.
The Israeli government has refused to extend a 10-month partial freeze that ended in September on new settlement building, illegal under international law [a debatable point].
Over the weekend, Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas said to Arab foreign ministers that his side would consider a request before the UN Security Council if the peace talks collapse as a result of the settlement issue.
The Israeli defence minister, Ehud Barak, of the centre-left Labour Party, was reportedly more cordial with the two European ministers.
“They both take a lot of time working towards a real European contribution to peace between Israel and the Palestinians,” he said.
“I know that they are both friends of Israel, and they are respected by the Palestinians and throughout the Arab world. Therefore, they can really help.”
There was an update to this story in the Jerusalem Post today in a commentary by Israel Kasnett. Until reading it, I didn’t realize just how much this is the Kosovo precedent in action:
…This was a busy week for Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman. French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner and Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Moratinos arrived at the Foreign Ministry Sunday to promote an initiative under which the European Union would recognize a Palestinian state even before Israel and the Palestinian Authority reach a final settlement through negotiations. Lieberman responded by telling his counterparts that before coming to solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, they should concentrate on the problems in their own backyards.
One must wonder why it has become the diplomatic norm for Europeans to come here for meetings that are disproportionately devoted to telling Israeli officials what this country should or should not be doing. If the opposite were true and Israeli officials were to arrive at the Elysee Palace to lecture the French on their policies, it is easy to see why they would be met with scorn.
Lieberman suggested that after solving the conflicts in the Caucasus and Cyprus, and after making peace between Serbia and Kosovo, the Europeans can come here and “we will listen to your advice.”
“I tried to explain that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is far from being central to the world and surely not the most ancient in the world, and I have not seen any universal formula that has solved all the conflicts on the face of the planet,” he said. “Our stance is that we must stop stuttering and apologizing.”
If Kouchner insists on focusing on Israel, then why not, as Lieberman suggested, review Turkey’s occupation of Northern Cyprus as well?
And yet, even with its ongoing occupation of Northern Cyprus, Turkey is currently considered a candidate for full membership in the EU. This lies in sharp contrast to the EU decision to suspend the upgrade process for Israel in April 2009 after Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu announced a reassessment of the peace process and suspended peace negotiations.
But Kouchner has taken his meddling even further. He said on Sunday in an interview with the Palestinian newspaper Al-Ayyam, “One cannot rule out in principle the Security Council option.”This echoes Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat, who said that the possibility was raised of eventually going to the UN Security Council to create a Palestinian state on the 1967 borders. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas last Friday also told leaders at the Arab League meeting in Libya that if peace talks remain stalled, he may consider asking the US to recognize a Palestinian state within the pre-1967 borders. [NOTE: Both of these Palestinians brought this option up immediately upon observing Kosovo’s unilateral declaration of independence in February 2008.]
While he is repeating Erekat’s comments, if nothing else Kouchner’s remarks appear to be blatant European meddling in the peace process, the resolution of which must be found through bilateral negotiations between the two sides.Kouchner appears to be informing the Palestinians of European support for a Palestinian state regardless of whether or not the negotiations are successful. […]