For the first time, we successfully split up the solid anti-Israel coalition of African and South American countries at the United Nations.

 Interview with FM Avigdor Liberman on Pervoe Radio


Archive photo: Reuters

[Translated from Russian]

Host: This week, all the world’s greatest nations took a stand against construction in Gilo, Jerusalem. Today, China joined them. According to our sources, you’ve discussed this issue with the Foreign Minister of France Mr. Bernard Kouchner, who is staying in Israel right now. What can we do about such unanimous opposition to construction in a part of Jerusalem? How can we withstand it? Actually, we are now opposing the entire world. What can you say to your colleagues?

FM Liberman: First of all, let’s not panic. I’ve had a number of meetings this week. First, there was a very important meeting with three congressmen, including the Chairman of the Congressional Arms Committee. Everyone who is familiar with the political balance in the US certainly knows how critical this office is. While talking with those three congressmen, including the Chairman, I’ve heard nothing on this issue. Yesterday, I had a meeting with the First Deputy Prime Minister of Poland. This was a very good and fruitful talk, with no accusations or even a hint about construction in Jerusalem. Yesterday evening, I met with the Foreign Minister of Estonia who arrived in Israel for the opening ceremony of the Estonian Embassy. And again, this was a very good meeting, I heard no accusations at all.

Host: What about your French colleague?

FM Liberman: Yes, I had a meeting with my French colleague Mr. Bernard Kouchner. The issue was raised. But he also realizes that we are fully entitled to do this. This cannot be used as a pretext to reject political talks. They are all trying to maneuver – the Europeans, and even the White House sometimes… But Kouchner has repeatedly told me that they are our friends, whatever happens. "France is your friend despite our differences, and of course eventually it’s up to you to decide…" To my satisfaction, our opposition leader Tzipi Livni has made a statement that there would be no negotiations or discussions on the issue of construction in Jerusalem. This is our decision, this is our sovereign right, and this is not negotiable…

Host: Mr. Liberman, you travel a lot, you meet foreign leaders almost every day. Do you think that our image has improved, remained unchanged or changed for the worse? According to our opposition leader, it seems we are isolated from the entire world. Or is that wrong? What’s your opinion as Foreign Minister?

FM Liberman: Speaking about politicians, their opinions are not important for me. The facts are what matter. Politicians are biased, to put it mildly, each of them interpreting events as he deems fit. Let’s take the last UN vote on the Goldstone resolution. Historically, just two countries – the USA and Micronesia – have always voted with Israel. And now, for the first time ever, 15 more countries have supported us, with such great nations as Germany, Italy, Canada, Australia, and Holland among them. To say nothing of the former socialist states.

Host: Ukraine, just Ukraine voted for us.

FM Liberman: And also the Warsaw Treaty states – like Hungary, Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, and Macedonia. For the first time ever, 18 countries voted against the resolution; 44 countries abstained, and 12 other countries didn’t vote. For the first time, we successfully split up the solid anti-Israel coalition of African and South American countries. A third of them either didn’t vote or abstained, with Panama voting for us. I believe these results attest to a serious breakthrough. However, we should not flatter ourselves. Our major challenge for today is public opinion, particularly in the West. I’ve emphasized it more than once in my speeches. Let’s take London for example – this is a major political center of Europe, and not only political…

Host: Financial capital.

FM Liberman: The Israeli Embassy in London is located close to 23 embassies of Muslim countries, such as Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, and Bahrain. These states have no financial problems, no budget cuts. Moreover, at least six or seven Arabic TV stations, including Al-Jazeera and Al-Arabia, are broadcasting from London. About 15 major Arabic newspapers are available there. The Muslim communities of London and the UK as a whole are ten-fold larger than the Jewish community. Considering all this, we have to readjust and to fight in such unfavorable conditions. I’ve just outlined our challenges with regard to public opinion. But still, if we have enough time, we can dramatically change the situation.

Host: You’ve mentioned our strategic alliance with Russia more than once. What about it? Russia does not seem particularly interested in it.

FM Liberman: Let’s talk facts. In Geneva, Russia voted against Israel on the Goldstone report. We’ve had a number of meetings and consultations. So Russia abstained in the UN and chose not to vote against us, which is extremely important. For the first time in decades, Russia agrees to the sanctions against Iran. We have all witnessed Medvedev’s statement at his meeting with the US President in Singapore. Moreover, before this meeting, Russia stated again and again that if Iran chose to reject the agreement with the Western countries, Russia would support sanctions against it. Third, the trade between our two countries has risen to over 3 billion dollars.

Host: And tourism – we have now more tourists from Russia than from the US.

FM Liberman: In early December, I’m going to Russia to participate in the meeting of the state intergovernmental commission. There are also positive trends. I can’t say that our relationships with Russia are like with the US. No, they’re not. I’m not going to mislead anyone, but still, lots of positive changes are underway. This will be taken into account.