Liberman bashes Europe’s silence on ‘bully’ Erdogan’s ‘anti-Semitism’

FM predicts ‘significant breakthrough’ with moderate Arab states by year’s end, but says progress impossible with Abbas in power

Raphael Ahren is the diplomatic correspondent at The Times of Israel.

Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman addressing Israeli diplomats in Jerusalem, January 14, 2015 (photo credit: Elram Mandel)
Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman addressing Israeli diplomats in Jerusalem, January 14, 2015 (photo credit: Elram Mandel)

Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman Wednesday called Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan an “anti-Semitic neighborhood bully” and accused Europe of contributing to increasing anti-Semitism on the continent by ignoring Erdogan’s recent anti-Israel statements.

In a wide-ranging foreign policy address, Liberman also predicted a “significant strategic breakthrough” between Israel and moderate Arab states by the end of the year, yet said that no advancement on the peace process was possible as long as Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas remains in power.

“European states’ silence in the face of the recurring diatribes of Erdogan, who calls our state a terror state, leads to the same murderous hatred against Jews in Europe,” the foreign minister declared. It’s bad enough that leaders in Europe fail to condemn blatant human rights violations in Turkey itself, he said, “but their ignoring of the hatred and the incitement against Israel that this man cultivates is something that we cannot ignore.”

“If one looks for the reasons for increasing anti-Semitism in Europe — why and how it happens — this is one of the reasons. The silence of the lambs of cultured Europe — the Europe of political correctness — in the face of an anti-Semitic neighborhood bully like Erdogan and his friends brings us back to the situation of the 1930s.”

On Monday, the Turkish president, who has a longstanding record of anti-Semitic statements, criticized Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for “daring” to attend an anti-terror solidarity march in Paris and accused Israel of committing “state terrorism” against the Palestinians.

In his speech, Liberman lamented international media coverage of the supermarket attack in Paris, in which four Jews were killed. “CNN, for example, tried to ignore the Jewish angle,” he said. When speaking of the incident at the HyperCacher store, the network’s journalist intentionally failed to mention that the store belonged to Jews and that the hostages and those killed were Jews who were targeted only because of their religion, he fumed.

Across Europe, the discourse on the Paris attacks focused on freedom of expression, radicalism and Islamophobia, Liberman said. “But the Jewish and anti-Semitism angles were not mentioned. And that’s especially grave in light of previous events,” he said, referring to deadly attacks on a Jewish school in Toulouse and the Brussels Jewish museum. “The ignoring of the Jewish angle is something we must not let pass silently.”

‘The real conflict is not between Israel and the Palestinians. It’s between Jews and Arabs’

Addressing Israeli diplomats at the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem, Liberman reiterated his call for an agreement between Israel and the moderate Arab states, saying that the government last year made significant efforts to unite all “moderate forces” in the Middle East.

“When I speak about a regional agreement, these are not pipe dreams,” he said. “It’s impossible to conclude the entire agreement in all its details, but it’s possible to reach a significant, strategic breakthrough by the end of 2015.”

The foreign minister has been reported to have met with senior Arab officials in a bid to draw up a regional peace agreement, but on Wednesday declined to comment further on this issue.

Instead, Liberman rebutted the claim that peace with the Palestinians could be achieved through a bilateral track. Rather, an agreement needs to include three elements: the Palestinians, Israeli Arabs and moderate Arab states in the region, he postulated.

“The real conflict is not between Israel and the Palestinians. It’s between Jews and Arabs,” he declared.

A “significant obstacle” on the way to a regional accord is Mahmoud Abbas, Liberman said, arguing that the Palestinian leader is interested solely in political survival.

“Whoever talks seriously about a diplomatic process must first get rid of Abu Mazen [Abbas] and must of course eradicate the Hamas regime in Gaza. Whoever says a diplomatic process is possible as long as Abu Mazen sits on his seat in Ramallah and Hamas rules Gaza — under these conditions, every attempt to revive a diplomatic process is just talk. It is not possible.”

The PA’s recent decisions to turn to the United Nations Security Council and seek membership in the International Criminal Court “crossed all red lines,” Liberman said. These moves constitute “classical diplomatic terrorism” and “don’t leave us any choice but to take determined steps” against Abbas.

Israel’s decision to freeze Palestinian tax revenues, which was taken in the aftermath of the Palestinian moves, must not be temporary, the foreign minister demanded. In the past, Jerusalem sought to punish Ramallah for unilateral steps by withholding funds, but soon thereafter unfroze them again. “This time it needs to be clear that no money will be transferred” until the fall of the current Palestinian regime, he said.

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