Defense Minister Ehud Barak criticized on Thursday statements made by Israel's Foreign Ministry, which said the "bickering" of European Union members of the UN Security Council over Israeli settlement was making them "irrelevant."

"European countries are very relevant," Barak told Israel Radio, "and they stand with us in important times." He added that the countries should be told they are mistaken, but Israel should continue cooperating with them and refrain from conflicts.

Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman's office retaliated Thursday by saying: "We do not respond to parties who have less than six mandates."

"In issues that are important to Israel (such as) fighting the attempts to push us to the International Criminal Court, we turn to Sarkozy and Cameron, so I don't think we should turn them into tensed, insulted and bitter opponents," Barak said. He added that "Germany, France and Britain are not Tanzania, Mauritania or Tripolitania. These are very important countries in the world and we have no interest in increasing the tensions with them."

Israel's response came a day after the four European Union members of the UN Security Council strongly criticized Israel's decision to speed up construction of settlements, which they termed a "wholly negative" development.

A statement released by the Foreign Ministry on Wednesday said that the EU members of the Security Council would be well advised to exert their efforts on resuming direct talks between Israel and the Palestinians, instead of "interfering" in Israel's internal affairs.

Israel's response came a day after the four European Union members of the UN Security Council strongly criticized Israel's decision to speed up construction of settlements, which they termed a "wholly negative" development.

A statement released by the Foreign Ministry on Wednesday said that the EU members of the Security Council would be well advised to exert their efforts on resuming direct talks between Israel and the Palestinians, instead of "interfering" in Israel's internal affairs.

Opposition leader Tzipi Livni said on Wednesday that "Israel is starting a war against its closest friends in Europe." Hadash MK Mohammed Barake said Thursday that "the Foreign Ministry headed by (Avigdor) Lieberman is acting like a thuggish street gang rather than an organizaed diplomatic body."