Resigning Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman on Sunday vowed he was going to sit in the dark and reflect on his actions after facing rebuke for calling three female political rivals a bunch of “vaybers” (Yiddish for “biddies”). The jocular promise represented an effort to light-heartedly defuse criticism over his use of the Yiddish term for the three female political party leaders.

“I’ve witnessed the attacks of three vaybers — Tzipi Livni (of Hatnua);(Shelly) Yachimovich (Labor); and Zahava Gal-on (Meretz) — the Polish gang,” Liberman had said on Thursday, referring to what he said was relentless criticism by left-wing political rivals, including over his alleged legal offenses and his recent denunciation of European governments for their perceived indifference to threats to Israel’s existence.

“Actually, Zahava is Lithuanian, not Polish, I think, but the trio of vaybers have attacked me furiously. It was not so much them targeting me as fighting each other through me,” Liberman said Thursday, in the course of a lengthy speech following that day’s news that he was about to be indicted for fraud and breach of trust offenses. A weightier case, regarding a series of fraud and money-laundering allegations, was closed for lack of evidence.

The quip provoked furious responses on Hebrew social media sites, where many denounced Liberman’s lack of political correctness.

Liberman published his apology on his Facebook page, saying those who took offense misunderstood his attempt at a joke. “In Israeli public life, where one often deals in difficult and painful issues, injecting the occasional bit of humor is essential,” he said.

“I never thought a little joke could cause such a brouhaha, my sincere apologies to those it hurt,” Liberman wrote, signing off with a joke peppered with a smiley emoticon, “Now I shall sit alone in the dark a little bit, and I’ll think about it again.”

Not everyone, however, was impressed by the apology. “Liberman’s new strategy: an aggressive statement followed by a passive aggressive apology,” tweeted the comedian Adi Klag on the popular microblogging site.

Liberman on Sunday formally submitted his letter of resignation as foreign minister, saying he hoped to clear his name before the January 22 elections.