With elections on the horizon, MK Avigdor Lieberman appears intent on straining Israel's relationship with Cairo.
Just days after he said Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak could "go to hell" if he remained unwilling to visit Israel, the Yisrael Beitenu chairman compared the subsequent apologetic behavior of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and President Shimon Peres to that of a battered wife.
In an interview with Channel 2's 'Meet the Press' on Saturday, Lieberman asserted that "the public is frustrated by this loss of national honor, this feeling of humiliation – it has just gone too far."
The outspoken right-wing leader said the incident was indicative of the crisis of leadership in Israel.
"This wasn't an apology, this was groveling. Israel's behavior when it comes to Egypt is that of a battered wife. Nothing but apologies."
Lieberman explained why he believed the president and prime minister were wrong to ask forgiveness from Mubarak. "The provocation came in the form of the massive military exercise Egypt held several days ago, that identified us as the enemy. You have the smuggling of arms into Gaza and Hamas' hands from the Sinai. If Egypt genuinely wanted to put an end to it they could. The caricatures in the Egyptian media are just like they were in (Nazi propaganda leader Joseph) Goebbels' days.
"Egypt is waiting for the right moment to deploy its army in the Sinai, contrary to the peace agreement. There is a different formula – peace for peace, not peace for land."
Olmert and Peres both apologized to Mubarak after Lieberman's controversial speech at the Knesset memorial service for slain Minister Rehavam Ze'evi.
Lieberman, a member of the late Ze'evi's party, addressed the House during the special session and sharply criticized Israel's foreign policy.
"Ze'evi would have never put up with our concessions towards the Egyptians. Time after time we to to meet Mubarak in Egypt – and yet he has never agreed to come here for an official visit," said Lieberman. "Any self respecting leader would have made these meetings subject to condition. He wants to talk to us?
Let him come here. He doesn't want to talk to us? He can go to hell."
Olmert reportedly assured Mubarak that he sees him as a close friend and a strategic ally, and that he sees the strengthening of Israel's relationship with Egypt as imperative.
"Those words should never have been said. From the moment they were uttered those words were nothing but useless and harmful. Egypt and Mubarak are (Israel's) strategic partners," Olmert said.
Peres, who spoke with Mubarak prior to Olmert, also expressed his regrets that the "unfortunate" remarks had been made.