lieberman - Emil Salman - December 14 2010
Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman. Photo by Emil Salman
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Veteran Likud MK Michael Eitan took Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman to task on Tuesday, accusing him of worsening international attitude to Israel and achieving "zero" by way of public relations.

Eitan was hitting back at the foreign minister over the latter's remarks that many members of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud party had betrayed the nationalist camp in their refusal to support a panel of inquiry into leftist group accused of "delegitimizing" Israel.

"Israel is politically isolated," Eitan told an audience in the large West Bank settlement of Ariel. "I can say that I am here in Ariel to bolster the State of Israel's struggle to keep this city on the permanent map. One of the most important factors of this struggle is to convince the international arena of the verity of our solution."

"Since no state in the world has supported Israel on this matter of late, the political situation has become much worse than in the past," added Eitan, who along with Knesset speaker Reuven Rivlin and Likud ministers Benny Begin and Dan Meidor had opposed the proposal to establish a panel of inquiry. The motion passed at the Knesset plenum last week by a majority of 47-16.

"Unfortunately, most of the officials responsible for foreign policy, whose job it is to focus on creating the correct climate for the State of Israel to apply [this solution] are busying themselves with other matters instead improving our stance," said Eitan.

"They have been given important offices with many responsibilities and resources, and the result is that they have achieved zero," he declared. "If there were such a notion as a ministerial warranty, they would have to draw their conclusions and take their talents elsewhere."

"The establishment of a Palestinian state need not be accompanied by the tragedy of moving 200,000 people from their homes," Eitan added. "Ariel must remain within Israeli territory. We must bring the Palestinians a creative package of incentives so that construction in Ariel does not turn into a point for veto on negotiations."

Netanyahu himself spoke out against Lieberman's criticism regarding the policies of some of the Likud officials, clarifying: Likud is not a dictatorship.

Netanyahu told Lieberman that he "completely rejects" his assessment that opposing a panel of inquiry in to the human rights groups betrays the nationalist camp and that it is the reason why the right "never rules even when it wins."

The premier said that his Likud party was indeed "united in the need to act against organizations who work illegally against the State of Israel and the IDF," but emphasized that there are a "variety of opinions regarding the best way to implement polices."

"The Likud is a democratic and pluralistic party, and isn't a one-opinion dictatorship," Netanyahu added. "All the Likud ministers are concerned for the security of the state and its citizens, and to enact this they do not need approval from anyone."

Lieberman had made his remarks Monday in an address to Yisrael Beiteinu members, accusing opponents of the probe of presenting false facts about the proposal and those groups targeted for investigation.

"[The proposed probe] does not include the Geneva Initiative and Peace Now, which are legitimate, and there is no intention to investigate groups that are truly involved in politics and human rights," Lieberman said. "The only groups to be investigated are those whose goals are to deter the IDF from its fight against terrorism."

"Looking at the facts, we ask: why don't they protest about [abducted IDF soldier] Gilad Shalit," said Lieberman. "They always argue that Israel is not right. These are organizations that aid terrorism, and whose goals are to weaken the IDF and the state of Israel."