Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman took aim at Turkey Sunday just hours after the Mavi Marmara ship, which led the flotilla to Gaza in May, was cheered into Istanbul with calls of "Death to Israel".
Lieberman called Turkey's demand for an apology over the IDF raid on the Marmara, in which nine Turkish civilians died, "beyond rude". He also said lies were being heard from Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, "who visits Lebanon and threatens the State of Israel".
Lieberman's comments led Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to announce that the foreign minister's views do not reflect that of the Israeli government, and that only Netanyahu can express official state opinions. A Likud minister added to this that Lieberman "must be out of his mind".
"I will not accept the lies we're hearing all the time," the foreign minister told a conference of ambassadors, referring to a speech by his Turkish counterpart, Ahmet Davutoglu, who said Saturday that his country wanted to restore relations with Israel but that internal strife present in the coalition was preventing this from happening.
"I heard the lies and false promises made by the foreign minister who said, 'Look, we are ready to cooperate with Israel, look at how we came to help Israel with the fire in the Carmel and in our stead they would not have done the same.' I want to remind him of the earthquake in 2007, when we sent delegations which were there for weeks. We worked and heard not a word," Lieberman said.
Regarding the apology Turkey demanded he said, "The one who needs to apologize is the Turkish government for supporting terror, the IHH, Hamas, and Hezbollah. There will be no apology, just the opposite, we are expecting one from Ankara."
Lieberman also compared Turkey to Israel's arch-foe Iran. "You must understand that the changes within Turkey have nothing to do with Israel. It is an internal change within Turkey, just like the change of Khomeini had nothing to do with Israel but rather a change within Iran," he said.
The foreign minister then moved on to reject the notion of peace with the Palestinians. "Even if we were to offer Tel Aviv as the capital of Palestine and returned to the 1948 borders they would still find a reason not to sign a deal," he said. Lieberman believes Israel should aim for a long-term interim arrangement and postpone decisions of borders and refugees.
"We need to prepare Plan B, and I can say that it exists on the shelf. We are making last-minute modifications, and will be ready to use Plan B at any moment," he said. "The WikiLeaks era has proven that classic diplomacy doesn't help – the best diplomacy is to say things as is."
'FM degrading prime minister, state'
Lieberman's remarks "reflect his personal values and views, just as different government ministers in this government have different stances. The Israeli government's stance is only that expressed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu," the prime minister said in a statement Sunday evening.
But a Likud minister went further in disowning Lieberman. "This speech must have been part of his well-aimed campaign, of which the intention is still unclear," he said. "What was said was rude and vulgar in content and manner. This is not how we talk."
Another government minister said, however, that Netanyahu would not openly criticize Lieberman until the approval of the State Budget. "He is counting on that, and that's why he's allowing himself to say anything he wants to," the minister said.
"He is degrading the prime minister and the State of Israel, and it's starting to be extremely worrying. The world is looking at as funny, wondering what is going on."
Others in the coalition assume Lieberman is airing such harsh views of Turkey and the Palestinians in order to improve his standing among right-wing voters. "Lieberman is preparing himself for elections," one minister said. "And when a foreign minister tries to build his credit on an internal market while functioning as foreign minister – it doesn't work."
He added, "Israel's foreign policy has been damaged. The prime minister has known for a while that he needs another coalition. Lieberman feels now that he is the landlord."
Palestinian Authority spokesman Ghassan Khatib also rejected Lieberman's comments, saying most of the world recognizes his government as legitimate, including Israel. "It's too late now for anything except ending the occupation and allowing for two states on the '67 borders," he said.
Attila Somfalvi contributed to this report
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