Reverberations are still being felt in Jerusalem following French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s remark to Israeli P.M. Binyamin Netanyahu to “get rid of your foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman immediately” in order to expect to have more amicable relations with the EU, as well as with the rest of world. Sarkozy’s immediate remark, made during a meeting of the leaders at Eleysee Palace in Paris, sent shock waves in Israeli government circles, especially within Lieberman’s own party, Israel Beitanu.
Things got so bad back in Israel that Israel Beitanu vice chairman, Uzi Landau, himself known for being a bit of a right-winger, was outraged and asked how the head of state of a country supposedly friendly with Israel could make such a statement regarding a high ranking Israeli cabinet official, especially the Foreign Minister. “It’s hard to believe that the head of a friendly government could make such remarks. If I had been present I would have banged my fist on the table in protest” Landau was reported as saying.
Sarkozy suggested to the P.M. that Kadima Party leader and former foreign minister Tzipi Livni would be much better choice for the position. The French President is reported to have gone on to say that remarks made by Lieberman in private “are much different than those he makes in public”.
Whether Netanyahu takes this advice (said to have been “given from a friend”) to heart will be seen in the coming days. Lieberman’s appointment to the No. 2 government position was seen as a no-choice decision in light of Lieberman’s party garnishing 15 seats in the Knesset in the recent elections. Since Israeli governments are made up by building coalitions with other political parties, Lieberman’s party became the party of choice for Bibi’s Likud party, itself known for its right-of –center views. Netanyahu had offered to form a government with Kadima (now in Opposition), but Kadima Party head Livni rejected the idea as it would have made her party still playing “second fiddle” to the likud – even though Kadima won more seats in parliament than the Likud did.
Meanwhile, Kadima’s second in command, Shaul Mofaz, has been talking about calling a special meeting within his party to circumvent Livni and agree to join Netanyahu’s government –on condition that Bibi replaces Israel Beitanu with Kadima, of course, and perhaps even appoint Mofaz to be either foreign or defense minister (resulting in having to oust Labor Party head Ehud Barak from his cabinet seat in the process, with the result of the Labor Party leaving the government as well).
Getting back to Messier Sarkozy, he even said that French ultra right wing party leader Jean-Marie Le-Pen “is much more pleasant in private than Lieberman”.