Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman on Thursday suggested to his Italian counterpart Franco Frattini that he head a delegation of European foreign ministers to the Gaza Strip. However, Lieberman also rejected the claim that he was granting legitimacy to foreign ministers meeting with Hamas leaders.
According to Lieberman's proposal, Frattini would come with senior foreign ministers, including those of Britain, Germany, France and Norway. Just a few days ago, Israel was strongly criticized for preventing the entry to the Gaza Strip of a German minister.
It is still not clear whether the invitation extended by Lieberman in Rome was a gesture to his host or a planned move heralding a deep change in Israel's policy. If the latter, it signifies another sign that Israel is folding before the results of its raid on the Turkish flotilla – after Israel set up a commission of enquiry into the flotilla affair and eased restrictions on the Strip.
The aim of the visit, according to Lieberman, is to present the situation in the Strip, to prove that there is no hunger or humanitarian crisis. Lieberman also wants his European counterparts to visit Sderot and other Israeli towns which have suffered from rockets launched from the Strip.
Sources close to the foreign minister explained this step was intended to advance complete disengagement from Gaza, and the European ministers would assist with electricity production and water supply that was not reliant on Israel.
This change in the foreign minister's position has already drawn a furious response from Kadima. Party members said that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government is granting legitimacy to the Hamas government and undermining the international isolation which the previous Israeli government had imposed on Hamas.
They said there has never been a government whose deeds were so removed from its slogans, and that Netanyahu's government had made Israel weaker than ever.