French President Nicolas Sarkozy
asked Israel’s Prime Minister
French President Nicolas Sarkozy asked Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, during a meeting last week in Paris, to remove Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman and replace him with opposition leader Tzipi Livni, according to Israel’s ‘Channel 2’ television. The broadcaster claimed that Sarkozy had told the Israeli leader „to get rid of this man.” The French president reportedly urged Netanyahu to replace Lieberman with Kadima Party leader Livni, who was foreign minister in the previous Israeli government but refused to join Netanyahu’s coalition because of differences over how to pursue the peace process with the Palestinians.
„I have always accepted Israeli foreign ministers, and I loved to have Tzipi Livni here at the Elysée, but with him [Lieberman] I can’t,” Sarkozy said at the meeting, according to Channel 2, emphasizing his statement with a disparaging hand gesture. When Netanyahu replied that Lieberman sounded different in private conversations and in reality was a „pragmatic”, Sarkozy retorted that in private talks Jean-Marie Le Pen, the leader of the extreme-right National Front in France, was also a nice person. When Netanyahu protested the comparison, Sarkozy conceded that Lieberman and Le Pen were not the same.
A spokesman for Lieberman was quoted as describing Sarkozy’s remarks as „the intervention of the president of a respected, democratic state in the affairs of another democratic state,” which was „grave” and „intolerable.” The spokesman added: „We expect that – regardless of political affiliation – all political bodies in Israel condemn this callous intervention of a foreign state in our internal affairs.” Netanyahu’s office said that it would not discuss the contents of private talks that the Israeli prime minister held with foreign leaders.
„Netanyahu greatly values his foreign minister”, the Prime Minister’s Office said.