Last updated: 25 December, 2011

Lieberman hails Israel’s diplomatic successes

Israel’s Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman on Sunday defended the Jewish state’s diplomatic achievements in the past year amid claims that the country’s international isolation has increased.

“Israel achieved great success on the international scene, in which the foreign ministry played a not negligible role,” Lieberman said at the opening of an annual conference of 100 Israeli ambassadors in Jerusalem.

He pointed to “the failure of the Palestinian initiative at the UN Security Council” as one such success, referring to Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas’s bid to secure statehood recognition from the United Nations.

He also cited “the conclusions of the Palmer report on the flotilla,” a reference to a UN report that recognised the legality of Israel’s blockade on the Gaza Strip

That report also judged Israel’s May 2010 deadly raid on the humanitarian flotilla led by the ferry the Mavi Marmara in which nine Turks were killed as “disproportionate.”

Lieberman, who heads the far-right Yisrael Beitenu party that is frequently criticised within the foreign ministry and by former Israeli diplomats, also saluted the fact that a high number of foreign officials had visited Israel in 2011.

His statements came as a number of foreign leaders, notably from Europe, have criticised Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government for making no significant moves to restart peace talks with the Palestinians.

Netanyahu’s government has also been widely derided, including by Israel’s staunch ally the United States, for continuing to expand settlements in east Jerusalem and the occupied West Bank.

In his address to the ambassadors, Lieberman restated his attacks against the four European members of the UN Security Council (Britain, France, Germany and Portugal) who condemned Israel’s decision last week to expand settlement construction.

A foreign ministry statement said those European states risked being made “insignificant.”

“Israeli democracy has nothing to be envious of in the European democracies and no lessons to learn from them,” Lieberman asserted.

Israel returned to the international hot seat following its winter 2008-2009 military offensive in the Gaza strip that left 1,400 Palestinians dead, half of them civilians.

Its relations with former ally Turkey collapsed following the 2010 flotilla raid.

Already isolated in the region, Israel lost yet another ally with the ouster of Egypt’s former president Hosni Mubarak in February following a popular uprising against his regime.