Three former Foreign Ministry directors general criticized Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman yesterday for reprimanding Israeli ambassadors for what he described as a tendency to placate their host countries excessively.

"That is the comment of a kindergarten teacher - not the foreign minister," said Alon Liel, who served as director general of the ministry between November 2000 and April 2001. "The entire image of his first year in the post is one of big disappointment."

Liel had expressed support for Lieberman shortly after he took up the job, but now says the appointment of the Yisrael Beiteinu leader has in effect left Israel without a foreign minister.

The other former ministry heads who took issue with Lieberman's remarks are Yossi Beilin, who said the ambassadors don't take Lieberman seriously, and Eitan Ben-Zur.

At a conference of some 150 Israeli ambassadors on Thursday, Lieberman said the problem with Israeli diplomacy is that it does not do enough to preserve the honor of the State of Israel. "There must not be an attitude of obsequiousness and self-deprecation, and the need to always justify the other side," Lieberman told the diplomats. "The era of groveling is over."