Austria’s defense minister lashed out against Israel this weekend, criticizing Jerusalem’s threats against Iran and calling Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman “unbearable.”
“Iran is not yet able to build a [nuclear] bomb. Israel’s threats are therefore dispensable,” said Norbert Darabos, Austria’s minister of national defense and sport, in an interview with Die Presse that was to appear on Sunday.
“An Israeli attack on Iran would set the region ablaze in a way that could not be contained,” Darabos said, adding that a preemptive strike would create sympathies for the Islamic Republic in the Arab world and beyond.
Asked by the interviewer if he has a general problem with the Israeli government, Darabos, who belongs to the center-left SPÖ party, responded that he is happy that Kadima joined the Israeli coalition. “That could soften the radicalization,” he said. “Altogether, I have difficulties agreeing with Israeli policies.”
Darabos, who belongs to the Burgenland Croats, a minority group in Austria, said he wished Jerusalem would improve its settlement policies. “In addition, Israel apparently points to external enemies like Iran or the Palestinians to deflect from internal social problems. And if you’re asking me to speak frankly, in my eyes a Mister Liberman as a member of the Israeli government is unbearable. Israel was doing better when there was a balance between the Labor Party and the conservatives. But these times are over because the left is fragmented.”
Diplomatic relations between Vienna and Jerusalem have been rather strained since Austria was one of two European Union states that voted in favor of the establishment of a United Nations Human Rights Council investigation into Israel’s settlement policies in March. After the vote, the Foreign Ministry’s deputy director-general for Europe, Rafi Shutz, reprimanded the Austrian ambassador.