Do Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman's actions and statements justify the harsh remarks voiced against him by French President Nicolas Sarkozy?
According to former Israeli Ambassador to Paris Yehuda Lankry, "If these remarks were indeed made, what we have here is an interference in the internal affairs of a friendly country. This is an inappropriate act which is unacceptable on the diplomatic level."
Lankry, who represented Israel in France at the beginning of the 1990s, told Ynet on Sunday night that "there is nothing in Lieberman's actions and statements which justify such a remark."
According to Lakry, Lieberman's achievements or failures during his tenure should be the ones to determine France's attitude.
"I must say I cannot find any act contradicting the government's policy. He responded properly to (Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's) Bar Ilan speech. This means that the prime minister's political lines, which require the establishment of a Palestinian state, are acceptable to Minister Lieberman, and therefore both France and the European Union can only judge him based on his actions. Even then, they cannot take the liberty to make such a request."
Nonetheless, Lanrky says, Lieberman should not be concerned by the cold French attitude, which usually softens over time.
"In 2001, (former Prime Minister Ariel) Sharon, was perceived by the world as a person still carrying around the Sabra and Shatila affair. At the time, (then-French President Jacques) Chirac did not want to meet with him. He even invited (former President Moshe) Katsav in order to make it clear to Sharon that he is not wanted.
"Only when Sharon began preparing for a significant political move – the unilateral withdrawal from Gaza – he became a very wanted hero," says Lankry.
'Media partially to blame'A historic testimony to France's changeable attitude can also be found in the distant past, 42 years ago, as noted by Dr. Emmanuel Navon, a lecturer at the Abba Eban Graduate Program for Diplomacy Studies at Tel Aviv University.
"When Abba Eban traveled to Europe on the eve of the Six Day War in order to examine France and Britain's commitment to stand by Israel, (former French President Charles) de Gaulle told him, 'Don't attack first,' and after the war lashed out with radical statements about an extreme nation which has a tendency of controlling others."
According to Dr. Navon, media reports are partially responsible for President Sarkozy's extreme reaction.
"From the first day Lieberman was appointed foreign minister, a scathing campaign bordering on hysteria has been taking place against Lieberman on the French media. I believe it is possible that the French media and Sarkozy himself, who personally knew (former Foreign Minister) Tzipi Livni, had hoped that she would form the government, or would at least join the coalition together with Netanyahu if she could not be prime minister."
Dr. Navon expressed his surprise over the French president's style, saying this did not characterize his image when he first took office as a leader who did not give in to states of mind and was not afraid of taking unpopular stands.
"With all due respect, Yvette (Lieberman's nickname) did not blow up a plane over Scotland. What we are seeing here are double standards. (Libyan leader Muammar) Gaddafi, with his record as a terrorist responsible for one of the most terrible terror attacks at the end of the 1980s, can be accepted. So what? Is Lieberman worse?"