Avigdor Lieberman Comes Out Against Reconciliation With Turkey

Although deal is not concluded, 'diplomatic damage is already done,' says Lieberman; Herzog welcomes a resolution to the five-year-old crisis.

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Chairman of the Yisrael Beiteinu Knesset faction Avigdor Lieberman speaks at the Limmud conference in Kibbutz Ginosar, December 19, 2015.
Chairman of the Yisrael Beiteinu Knesset faction Avigdor Lieberman speaks at the Limmud conference in Kibbutz Ginosar, December 19, 2015.Credit: Gil Eliahu

Avigdor Lieberman, chairman of the Yisrael Beiteinu Knesset faction, spoke out Friday morning against the reported progress in efforts to resolve the five-year diplomatic crisis between Israel and Turkey. "The agreement with Turkey has not yet been concluded, but the diplomatic damage is already done," he said.

Haaretz reported on Thursday that diplomats from the two countries had reached an understanding on the framework of a reconciliation agreement that would normalize ties between the two, though some issues remained unresolved.

The crisis was precipitated by an Israel naval attack on a flotilla of Turkish ships attempting to breach the Israeli blockade on the Gaza Strip in 2010. Nine passengers were killed and another died later of his injuries in violent clashes between passengers on one of the ships, the Mavi Marmara, and Israeli naval commandos.

Speaking at the Limmud conference at Kibbutz Ginosar in the Kinneret, Lieberman said that "opportunism does not replace a smart and considered policy. Erdogan leads a radical Islamic regime, the Turks deal with ISIS, entered Iraq in defiance of all international conventions and are at odds with Russia."

"We have made considerable efforts in recent years to establish ties with Greece and Cyprus and have reached important agreements with them regarding cooperation. [The agreement with Turkey] will harm them," Lieberman continued. "It will also harm our ties with Egypt, because I have difficulty seeing Erdogan giving up his demands regarding Gaza – and Turkish foothold in Gaza will be at the expense of Egypt."

Regarding Israel's natural gas, Lieberman added that "there are enough export destinations, first and foremost Greece and Cyprus, with which we have had many meetings. There are expectations in those countries, particularly considering the fact that Israel and Cyprus are partners in one of the oil fields."

Lieberman, whose party sits in the opposition, said that there was "no chance" that the coalition would be able to expand beyond its current 61 seats.

"It is not a right-wing government or a nationalist government, but an opportunistic government, interested only in its own survival," he said.

"We proposed a bill that would have prevented [Joint List Knesset Member] Haneen Zoabi from serving in the Knesset and the government opposed it. That's just one example explaining why we don't believe in the government and won't be part of it. Yisrael Beiteinu is the only right-wing, nationalist alternative to this government."

Opposition chairman Isaac Herzog (Zionist Union) welcomed on Friday the efforts toward a breakthrough in Turkish-Israel relations, though he said that an agreement could have been reached two years earlier had Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu not dragged his feet.

"The progress that has been made is in the right direction, but Israel must ensure that it does not give [Turkish President Recep Tayyip] Erdogan a foothold in Gaza," Herzog said in a radio interview.

"Israel would have profited a lot more, had the agreement been reached two years ago," he added, "but Netanyahu dragged his feet as usual and was panicked by the reactions of [former foreign minister Avigdor] Lieberman and other coalition members.

"As a result, the price today is higher than it would have been, that I know for a fact," he said.

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