Lieberman: It's Time to Calm Tensions Between Israel and U.S. Over Iran

The returning foreign minister attempts to downplay the apparent crisis between Netanyahu and Kerry over Iran's nuclear program.

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Barak Ravid
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ברק רביד - צרובה
Barak Ravid

Relations between Israel and the U.S. are crucial to Israel's ability to maneuver in the international arena, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said on Tuesday, in an attempt to play down the public confrontation between the two countries.

"Ties with the U.S. administration are crucial, stable, and good. Nothing can change that," Lieberman said during a ceremony at the Foreign Ministry, a day after he was sworn in, while describing relations with the U.S. as key to Israel's international diplomatic efforts.

He said that disagreements between the two allies exist since the founding of Israel in 1948 and were only natural, but added that "there is no need for them to be publicly heard."

Earlier on Tuesday, Lieberman met U.S. Ambassador Dan Shapiro. The two discussed at length the recent tensions between Israel and the U.S. over the developing deal between the P5+1 and Iran over its nuclear program.

Lieberman's words were directed at U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, who in recent days criticized Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's opposition to a deal with Iran, but also at Netanyahu himself, who chose to publicly confront the U.S. administration on the issue.

Ahead of a meeting with Kerry on Friday just before his departure to Geneva, Netanyahu warned that Israel is not bound by any deal made there with Iran. Kerry responded and said that Netanyahu was not familiar with the details of the negotiations.

Lieberman also brushed off criticism by opposition members, who slammed his reinstatement during the swearing-in at the Knesset on Monday. "Yesterday at the Knesset session I realized that all of the problem in the Middle East – in Tunisia, Egypt, and Syria – they all stem from my perception of the Palestinian conflict."

The returning foreign minister noted that he was excited to be back in office, and said that he feels right at home. "This morning I found my pen on the desk just as I've left it, it hasn’t moved an inch."

Lieberman was sworn in as foreign minister on Monday after the Knesset approved his appointment by a vote of 62-17, with one abstention.

Lieberman served as foreign minister in Netanyahu’s previous term, between March 2009 and December 2012, five weeks before the election for the current Knesset. He left office after he was charged with fraud and breach of trust. He was acquitted by unanimous decision of a three-judge panel at the Jerusalem magistrate’s court last week, which ruled the state prosecution did not offer sufficient proof of its charges.

Netanyahu has been holding the Foreign Ministry position open for Lieberman, taking on the foreign affairs portfolio himself rather than appointing another foreign minister before the trial ended.

The prime minister did appoint MK Zeev Elkin (Likud) as deputy foreign minister, but his term came to an end on Sunday in order to allow Lieberman to appoint his own deputy, in keeping with common practice. On Tuesday, the ministers approved to reinstate Elkin, as per Lieberman's request.

During the ceremony, the chairman of the Foreign Ministry Diplomatic Workers' Union, Yair Frommer, asked Lieberman to help resolve the labor dispute between the ministry's diplomats and the Finance Ministry. Frommer gave the minister a whistle like those as used by the workers during their long strike earlier this year.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Finance Minister Yair Lapid congratulate Avigdor Lieberman after he swore in as Israel's Foreign Minister in Jerusalem, November 11, 2013.Credit: Reuters

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