Text size

Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman on Monday proposed a new regulation that would allow only those Israelis who served in the Israel Defense Forces or completed national service eligible for the Foreign Ministry's cadet program.

Lieberman offered the proposal during a meeting of the Foreign Ministry administrative committee on Monday, saying "anyone who wants to represent the country [Israel] in the outside world must take part in our obligations."

Lieberman vowed to bring the issue before the Knesset where "we will work to change the legislation in a way that will enable us to enact this new procedure."

If the new procedure is put into effect, it would restrict Israeli Arabs and members of the Haredi community from becoming Foreign Ministry cadets. Currently, more than five Israeli Arabs work as diplomats in the ministry, including both Muslims and Christians.

A few months ago, the Foreign Ministry announced plans to open a cadet course geared towards members of minority communities in Israel. It is unclear how Lieberman's proposal would affect this plan.

Lieberman's proposal evoked angry responses from left-wing lawmakers.

"This proposal wreaks with the pungent odor of racism and, in particular, a complete misunderstanding of the role of the Foreign Ministry," the head of the Meretz faction in the Knesset, MK Ilan Ghilon, told Army Radio. "The foreign minister is once again looking to attach an operative aspect to his extremist political doctrine."

MK Ahmed Tibi said that Lieberman's proposal is "a continuation of Yisrael Beiteinu's fascist agenda."

"Who would want to explain the policy of a government in which Lieberman sits?" Tibi said, adding that Israeli Arabs do not wish to serve in the Foreign Ministry.

Meretz chairman MK Haim Oron urged Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to dismiss Lieberman from his post.