Despite Flaws, Russian Elections Represent the People's Will, Says Lieberman

Foreign Minister's comment made in defense of a remark he made on the subject last week, that the elections in Russia were fair.

A recent Russian parliamentary vote may have been flawed but still represented the will of the people, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said on Monday.

Lieberman made his comment in defense of a remark he made on the subject last week, that the elections in Russia were fair. "The outcome of the elections reflects the mood in Russia," he said. "Maybe there were some errors in several areas in Russia, but that is not different from what happens in Israel in various Arab and Druze villages."

Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman - Tess Scheflan - 13122011
Tess Scheflan

Lieberman noted that modern Russia has only existed for 20 years, after hundreds of years of czarist and communist regimes. "Russia is not a Western democracy and it is impossible to jump four steps at a time," he said. "In 20 years quite a lot has happened. When you are in Moscow you can see criticism of [Prime Minister Vladimir] Putin and [President Dmitry] Medvedev on Russian television. One can also get a permit for a protest in Moscow. What did Israel do until 1968 democracy-wise? How did it operate?"

The foreign minister added: "The elections were not perfect but they reflected the situation. There were various problems and that also happens in more advanced countries - may I remind you of the Florida elections between [George W.] Bush and Al Gore."

Lieberman also commented on a bill proposed by fellow Yisrael Beiteinu party member MK Anastassia Michaeli, which would ban mosques from using loudspeaker systems to call people to prayer.

In a cabinet meeting on Sunday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu voiced support for the bill, saying there was "no need to be more liberal than Europe."

Referring to the so-called Muezzin Law, the foreign minister said on Monday that the bill was a "legitimate" one, adding that "there are similar precedents in the western world."

Lieberman said: "I don't want to reinvent the wheel. I've seen the kind of laws that were approved in Switzerland concerning mosques and in France regarding veils," referring to a 2010 Swiss law that forbade mosques from having minarets, as well as to a French ban on Muslim head-scarves and veils.

The foreign minister also spoke of Israel's ties with the United States, saying that, despite the strategic alliance that binds the two countries, there are disputes with the American administration, especially over the issue of Iran. "We asked for sanctions to be imposed against the Central Bank of Iran and on the Iranian oil sector, but the Americans won't have it," Lieberman said, adding that there were other differences of opinion regarding the situation in the Middle East. But "the United States is our most important backer," he added, and said there has never been agreement on every issue, "even when [President] Shimon Peres was foreign minister."