Israel's U.S. Envoy: Barak Harming Diplomatic Mission

Ambassador Meridor says Barak freezing out Foreign Ministry officials in key talks with U.S. officials.

Israel's Ambassador in Washington, Sallai Meridor, Wednesday sent a scathing letter to Defense Minister and Labor party leader Ehud Barak, accusing him of harming Israel's diplomatic mission in the U.S. during his most recent visit two weeks ago.

The letter, which was first revealed by Channel 2's Udi Segel, claimed that Barak refused to include Foreign Ministry officials in meetings with senior U.S. officials that dealt with "sensitive and important" issues.

Meridor said Barak's decision limited the leverage of Israeli diplomats permanently placed in Washington because it made them seem detached from the leadership in Israel.

"Your behavior seriously damaged that ability [to negotiate], and that of Israel to affect processes in the U.S. capital," Meridor wrote.

Copies of the letter were also sent to the offices of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni.

Barak's spokesperson said in response that Meridor did take part in meetings with U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rica, and was excluded from only one meeting with National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley. The aide said that the reason Meridor was not invited to the meeting was because of the limited number of participants made available by the U.S. representatives. Barak attended that meeting alongside senior defense official Amos Gilad.