Editorial / Sarkozy is right – Lieberman must go
By Editorial: Haaretz
French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s request of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that he replace Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman exposes a sad truth: At present Israel does not have a functioning foreign minister. The international community refuses to speak to a politician who is considered racist in the wake of the campaign conducted by his party, Yisrael Beiteinu, against Arab citizens during the recent Knesset election campaign. There is not and cannot be any other way to interpret Sarkozy’s comparison between Lieberman and far-right French politician Jean-Marie Le Pen.
The angry reactions emerging from the Foreign Ministry after Sarkozy’s comment was publicized on Israel’s Channel 2 on Monday, to the effect that he had "interfered in Israel’s internal affairs," are not relevant.
France did not impose an official boycott on Lieberman, nor did Sarkozy condemn him publicly – he only conveyed a message to Netanyahu in private. It is therefore difficult to maintain that Sarkozy behaved in an undiplomatic manner.
It is more important to focus on the main thing, which is the ongoing damage to Israel’s diplomatic interests resulting from Lieberman’s tenure in the Foreign Ministry. Sarkozy was not the first to express dissatisfaction with the fact that the leader of Yisrael Beiteinu was elevated to the top of Israel’s diplomatic pyramid.
The Arab countries refuse to speak to Lieberman because of his threats and the rude things he said in the past about Egypt and its president.
When Lieberman was recently invited to Washington, the U.S. administration expressed its dissatisfaction with him by demonstrating a preferential attitude toward Defense Minister Ehud Barak, who was invited to meet with President Barack Obama. Lieberman’s predecessors in the Foreign Ministry, Tzipi Livni (Kadima) and Silvan Shalom (Likud), were also invited to such meetings with the president during their visits to Washington. He was not.
Lieberman’s bizarre attempt to offer an alternative diplomatic policy, whose main feature is a strengthening of strategic cooperation with Russia as a counterweight to the Obama administration, collapsed embarrassingly right from the start. Before inviting Lieberman to Moscow, the Russians sent their foreign minister to a meeting with Hamas politburo chief Khaled Meshal.
In light of Israel’s complex international situation on the eve of the renewal of negotiations with the Palestinians and perhaps with Syria too, it needs all the support it can enlist from the international community. It is imperative to replace Lieberman with another foreign minister, who will benefit from an open door in the world’s capitals.
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