Lieberman: Israel's No. 1 problem its international image
Knesset's Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee hears briefing by foreign minister, ministry officials. Meeting covers US new peace initiative, Iranian threat, Lebanese election. Foreign Ministry official: Arabs did to us what Borat did to Kazakhstan
"Our position within the international community does not reflect reality and we cannot continue with our foreign policy without radically improving this perception, which is not good," he told the Knesset's Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee meeting.
Ido Aharoni of the Foreign Ministry's international branding project said that the ministry had conducted a series of studies in US and Europe to try to discover what the Israeli "brand" means in foreign countries, only to discover that "the connection between Israel's perception and reality is flimsy at best.
"We discovered that the Arabs, our competitors, managed to do to us what Borat did to Kzakhstan, create an identity which has a very slim connection to reality," he said.
The ministry's limited resources, he added, hinder Israel's ability to conduct itself in the international arena. Lieberman used the example of having only two litigators handle some 950 lawsuits filed against Israel in international courts, to illustrate his point.
As for the rumored crisis with the United States, Lieberman said that Israel "welcomes the US administration's regional approach (to the peace process) and its attempt to reach an agreement between sides other than Israel and the Palestinians."
Liebermann added that Jerusalem also welcomed Washington's understanding of the need to create "a regional system where all constructive forces realized the need for cooperation.
Lieberman (L) with committee head MK Tzachi Hanegbi (Photo: Gil Yohanan)
"We are currently in the midst of a very hectic political time and, naturally, the prime minister's pending address, in which he will outline the government's perception is creating much interest," he continued, adding that several other international challenges, the first being the Iranian threat, have also presented themselves.
The foreign minister was joined by several senior officials from his ministry, who said that Iran was doing everything it could to achieve nuclear capability and increase its caches of fissionable matter.
'International community doesn’t stand a chance'
Turning his attention to the internal situation in Iran, Lieberman said that Tehran's reaction to the international community's response to North Korea's recent nuclear missile test was "fascinating… especially if you read the talkbacks in uncensored websites.
"Unlike in other (Gulf) states, there is a great discourse about it, mostly by students… and the conclusion is clear – if the international community can't do anything about the most isolated nation in the world, it doesn't stand a chance in stopping us."
Lieberman further warned that the Sunni Arab world would not tolerate only Iran having nuclear weapons: "If, heaven forbid, Iran will have military nuclear capabilities, the rest of the region will spiral into a nuclear race, with all that implies from that."
Senior Foreign Ministry official Haim Waxman added that Iran posed the international community's biggest challenge since World War II, and urged against giving Tehran the legitimacy it seeks.
Foreign Ministry officials also spoke of the nearing presidential election in Iran, saying that while Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is likely to win, the conservative camp is unlikely to rally to his support.
As for the recent general elections in Lebanon, which saw the pro-Western camp win the parliament over Hizbullah, a Foreign Ministry official said that the Shiite group "continues to be the strongest organization in Lebanon military-wise, making the moderates' victory only one aspect of the situation in the country.
"The Lebanese power structure is such that both sides are striving for a unity government, because there is no other real alternative. The parliament may be ruled by the March 14 Group (i.e. the current coalition) but Hizbullah dominates the filed."