Less than a week after the European Union imposed a new round of wide-ranging economic sanctions on Iran, Israel's Foreign Minister called on its member states to 'mind their own business' and stay clear of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Avigdor Lieberman was responding to a statement issued overnight Friday by EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton criticizing a recent Israeli decision to expand the east Jerusalem neighborhood of Gilo by nearly 800 additional housing units.
"Settlements are illegal under international law and threaten to make a two-state solution impossible," Ashton wrote in her statement.
Lieberman, who is soon expected to launch his election campaign with a tougher line on the Palestinian issue, said in response that "it is better that the EU would focus now on the problems between different peoples and nations in Europe." Lieberman added that only "after the successful resolution of those problems we [Israel] would be glad to hear the EU's advice on solving the problems with the Palestinians."
Lieberman said Ashton lacks "a basic understanding of the reality in the region," adding that automatically criticizing Israel over construction in east Jerusalem would "only encourage the Palestinians to persist in their refusal to participate in negotiations and continue to take anti-Israeli actions in the international arena."
"Gilo is a part of Jerusalem and Jerusalem is a part of Israel," Lieberman maintained.
Lieberman's call on Ashton and the EU not to interfere in Israel's affairs is somewhat surprising as it comes only a week after Europe voted to impose additional sanctions on Iran following Israeli Foreign Ministry officials' feverish lobbying.
Lieberman even went as far as sending Ashton a thank you message after the sanctions were approved, congratulating her and describing the EU's move as a “courageous and important step, worthy of significant appreciation, especially when taken in a difficult economic period."
“Therefore, I find it fitting to publically express my gratitude and our appreciation for your determination in preventing Iran’s nuclear proliferation plans,” he wrote.
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