Ahmed Tibi vs. Michael Oren – the saga continues
Israel's Foreign Ministry Director General Rafi Barak sent a clarification letter to Arab MK, but Tibi still demands an apology from the ambassador in Washington; watch a video parodying the exchange between Oren and veteran reporter Bob Simon from CBS.
Two weeks ago I published the official complaint filed by Arab MK Ahmed Tibi to the Foreign Ministry following an article by Israel's envoy to the U.S. Michael Oren, in which he wrote that Tibi had retained his position as deputy Knesset speaker despite his support of suicide bombers.
Last Monday, Foreign Ministry Director General Rafi Barak answered Tibi in a clarification letter, which included no apology. "After reviewing the issue," Barak wrote, "I wish to point out that the purpose of the article written by the ambassador in Washington was to present the resilience of Israel's democracy in light of the many challenges it faces."
"The line in which you are mentioned," continues Barak, "refers to the… important protection granted to the freedom of speech in Israel, even to opinions and actions perceived by a large part of the public as controversial. (I hope) that the issue has been clarified."
However, the letter did not satisfy Tibi. "The ambassador overstepped his authority and attacked an elected official," Tibi's office said in a statement. "It is not by chance that he chose to do so against an Arab MK. It is interesting that he did not give the example of MK Michael Ben Ari (National Unity), who is forbidden from entering the U.S. after the administration deemed him a member of a terrorist organization."
According to the statement, "the ambassador must retract his statements and apologize. Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin must protect MK Tibi from attacks by officials, including the U.S. ambassador."
Tibi's original complaint was filed after Oren's article in the Foreign Policy magazine, titled "Israel's Resilient Democracy." In the article, Oren wrote that "Israel has tolerated acts that would be deemed treasonous in virtually any other democracy," and mentioned in that context that "Ahmed Tibi, who once advised PLO Chairman Yasir Arafat and recently praised Palestinian "martyrs" -- a well-known euphemism for suicide bombers -- serves as a member and deputy speaker of the Knesset."
Michael Oren vs. Bob Simon – a tribute to Tony Soprano
Israel's ambassador to the U.S. has also caught attention in recent days for another high-profile confrontation, this time between Oren and CBS's "60 minutes" reporter Bob Simon, over the status of Christians in Israel and the West Bank.
Journalist Ben Smith, who edits the BuzzFeed news site, published on Friday the written exchange between the program's producers and the Israeli embassy, prior to the airing of the show.
The letter sent to Oren by Simon – after Oren had called top CBS officials to complain – does not contain the critical tone Simon voiced in the interview.
The confrontation even led to some amusing videos. Blogger Ami Kaufman posted on his blog in +972 Magazine a video parodying the exchange, and in which he compares Oren to none other than Tony Soprano.
The blog of Haaretz's diplomatic correspondent, taking a deeper look behind the scenes of Israeli politics and foreign policy.