Lieberman Not Invited to PM's Meeting on Palestinian ICC Bid

Tensions between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his foreign minister have worsened as the elections approach.

David Bachar

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu did not invite Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman to a meeting he convened on Thursday to discuss Israel's response to the Palestinian Authority's application to join the International Criminal Court, according to a senior official in Jerusalem.

The background to the non-invitation is apparently ongoing tension between the two men, whose respective parties will face off against each other in the upcoming elections.

News of the prime minister's snub of Lieberman was first reported by Israel Radio's Chicko Menashe.

The meeting, which lasted about two hours, was attended by Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon, National Security Adviser Yossi Cohen, officials from the various government ministries, the Israel Defense Forces and the Shin Bet security Service.

The international arena in which Israel confronts the PA, specifically the United Nations and the ICC, is primarily under the purview of the foreign ministry. Invited in place of Lieberman was ministry director-general Nissim Ben-Shitrit.

The prime minister's bureau said in response that Netanyahu is the one coordinating the response to the Palestinian bid to join the ICC. A senior bureau source said that the relevant professionals were invited to the meeting, among them the director-general of the foreign ministry.

"When decisions need to be made, the issue will be brought to the security cabinet and put before all the ministers," the bureau official said.

Lieberman's associates greeted Netanyahu's move with disdain and cynicism. Senior ministry officials said that it showed that Netanyahu was not interested in finding a real solution to dealing with the Palestinians in the UN and the ICC.

"For that reason he called a meeting with the participation of yes-men only," Lieberman's associates said. They also took jabs at Ya'alon, saying that Netanyahu "invited people like [Ya'alon] and government clerks so no one would disagree with him."

The political tension between Netanyahu and Lieberman has increased with the approach of the elections. Last week, Haaretz reported on Lieberman's stinging criticism of the prime minister's handling of government policy during a closed meeting at Tel Aviv University.

"No one is doing anything," Lieberman said. "All we have is status quo. They pull one way and then the other; one step forwards and one step backwards. Nothing is initiated. We have to initiate. When we don't initiate, we lose. [Netanyahu's] approach has failed I respect Netanyahu, but the approach that I represent is more correct for this period."