Barak: Don’t Criticize Europe – They Might Get Offended

Ehud Barak is concerned that the Europeans may take Israeli protests against condemnations badly – but no one in the EU seems concerned.
By David Lev

Defense Minister Ehud Barak on Thursday slammed Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman and the Foreign Ministry Thursday for their criticism of EU countries that condemned Israeli construction in Jerusalem and Yesha and for “price tag” vandalism. Barak said that the Ministry’s “dismissal” of the opinion of the EU’s most important countries was perhaps proper, but “not wise,” and that any protests should be made quietly, if at all.

In a statement, the Ministry said Wednesday that Israel’s EU critics – Germany, France, Portugal, and Britain – “should have concentrated on peacemaking in centers of bloodshed such as Syria, on helping democracy and moderation take root in Arab countries aspiring to freedom, and on defusing the global danger embodied in the Iranian nuclear race.”

“If, instead… they invest their efforts in inappropriate bickering with the one country where the independent law and justice system can handle lawbreakers of all kinds, they are bound to lose their credibility and make themselves irrelevant,” the statement added.

Earlier, the four EU countries said in a joint statement after Tuesday’s Security Council meeting on the Middle East conflict that they were “dismayed by these wholly negative developments” and the threat they pose to the peace process. They also called for strong measures by Israel “to halt attacks on mosques and Palestinians by extremist settlers,” and that recent announcements of new construction in Judea, Samaria, and Jerusalem – including in Har Homa, within the city’s municipal boundaries, but is considered a “settlement” by the EU – sent a “devastating” message, and urged the Jewish state to reverse the plans.

Barak said Thursday that, in contrast to the Foreign Ministry’s apparent opinion, the EY was “very relevant,” and that Israel was in no position to alienate Germany, France or England. “They have stood with us in many struggles and important strategic situation, especially Iran and the sanctions against it,” he said. Barak believed that the EU leaders had perhaps exaggerated in their statement, and that it would be proper to correct them, but “we cannot get into a confrontation with them, and we must continue to cooperate with them.”

Barak spoke at length on Israel Radio’s Reshet Bet mid-morning show, an indication that both he and the editors of the program (among the radio shows in Israel with the highest listenership) believed the issue to be of great importance. But in a phone call, Israel Radio’s correspondent in Berlin said that the issue of Israel’s protests against the EU statement were not even being discussed in European media. “There was a small item saying that the Israeli Foreign Ministry criticized the EU countries’ statement, but that was all,” the correspondent said. “The matter is not even being discussed here at all.

If anything, government officials I spoke to here were surprised that Israelis would have any concern about the statement at all. ‘We have been saying these things for years,’” the correspondent quoted the officials as saying. “There is really nothing new here,” he added.