Our main objective for today is to try and organize a bloc of nine or ten European countries that would sympathize with us and vote with us. The times when the US and Micronesia were our only supporters are long gone.

 Interview with FM Liberman on REKA Radio


Israel Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman (Archive photo: Reuters)

[translated from Russian]

Host: The visit of Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman to Denmark and Holland is now over. Good morning, Mr. Minister. This visit has apparently been most fruitful and successful. While talking to Denmark’s Minister of Refugee, Immigration and Integration Affairs Ms. Birthe Rønn Hornbech, you said that Islamic extremists use the democratic freedoms they enjoy in European countries just to incite and instigate conflicts both inside these countries and toward other states, and that they also spread and promote anti-Semitism. Have you received a specific answer or comments to this?

FM Liberman: I’d rather comment on my own words than third parties’ statements. Anyway, our main objective for today is to try and organize a bloc of nine or ten European countries that would sympathize with us and vote with us. The times when the US and Micronesia were our only supporters are long gone. I’d like to remind you that Holland was among those few states who voted with us at the UN Council for Human Rights in Geneva. We also maintain close contacts with the Government of Denmark. There is a bloc in Europe that includes Germany, Italy, Holland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Ukraine, and Macedonia, and we can use this bloc as a base.

Host: Are you saying that Copenhagen supports our positions in the Middle East or did some of their statements still come as a surprise? 

FM Liberman: No surprises. Copenhagen has a correct vision of our situation. Its Foreign Minister has been in office for nine years now, he has visited the Middle East more than once, and he knows the situation. Our main challenge for today is not the governments, but rather public opinion, which needs a drastic change, and we are successfully changing it. Students of a prestigious Norway University were about to announce academic boycott of Israel, but its Senate unanimously opposed this.

Host: Dutch Foreign Minister Maxime Verhagen claims that any reliable peace agreement in the Middle East requires the freezing of construction in Jewish settlements. This statement has become a sort of mantra. He also expressed deep concern over the humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip. What have you answered your Dutch colleague, and did his statement surprise you?

FM Liberman: No, this is a traditional position of the Europeans, and I’d rather treat it as a sort of political slogan. This issue has never been raised in the Committees on Foreign Affairs both in Holland and Denmark. I’ve told them simple facts – there were no Jewish settlements before 1967, but terror, conflicts, and tension never ceased to exist between 1948 and 1967. Furthermore, the Arab world was in control of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip for 19 years, but then, nobody tried to create the Palestinian state. Both Fatah and the PLO were established before 1967. In terms of facts, our settlements are just a pretext for the Arab world to complain. As we all remember, settlements have not prevented us from signing a peace agreement with Egypt. I’d also like to call to mind that we have evacuated tens of settlements in the Gaza Strip. And what do we have now? Hamas in Gaza and Kassams in Sderot.

Host: Our left opposition was opposed to your visit to the Netherlands. So was Deputy Martine Van Damm from the Netherlands Working Party, who did not hesitate to call you an extremist and compare your visit to a visit by Hamas. How strong is this voice in Netherlands?

FM Liberman: I’ve read about it in the press. I’ve also tried to find these demonstrators, but I haven’t. I probably should have taken a microscope with me from Israel. The protest was restricted to the mass-media alone.

Host: Are you saying that all was idyllic in Holland? 

FM Liberman: This Martine Van Damm behaved quite peacefully at the meeting of the Foreign Committee. He asked me one question and received a clear answer. Mass media is about reviewing, but I haven’t seen anything like this.

Host: Mr. Minister, please summarize your visit to Denmark and Holland. Though we cannot be sure about anything in policy, can Israel still count on support from these countries at all levels, including in the UN?

FM Liberman: Of course not. We have been working hard on this. Such meetings are also important to establish personal contacts, and to clear any misunderstandings. We still have lots of work to do. Western Europe doesn’t have a majority of votes at any international forum. But anyway, these countries dominate international policy, and the EU position always matters.

I’m going to continue my European tour next week – I will be seeing the Foreign Ministers of Germany, France, Great Britain, and Italy. We are maintaining very close contacts. I’d like to emphasize again – we are hoping for a better understanding in Europe. Though the large Muslim communities in states like France (15-16% Muslim population) do not favor our position, we won’t give in.