John Lyons
The Australian
July 24, 2009 - 12:00am,25197,25825562-2703,00.html

ISRAEL'S colourful Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman has sparked another controversy with an order to all Israel's overseas missions that they draw attention to a picture taken in Nazi Germany in 1941 showing Adolf Hitler with a Palestinian religious leader of the time.

The order has been greeted inside the Israeli Foreign Ministry with derision, with one source telling The Australian it was met with "laughter, scepticism and a sense of misplaced communication that this doesn't help one bit the real argument".

It was intended to counter the US argument that Israel should not allow a 20-apartment development on the site of a former hotel in the predominantly Arab East Jerusalem previously owned by the family of the mufti photographed with Hitler, the late Haj Amin al-Husseini.

The controversy came as Israel's new ambassador to the US, Michael Oren, insisted there was no breakdown in the relationship between Israel and the US, and that any differences would be resolved "with camaraderie". In his first interview since presenting his credential to President Barack Obama this week, Mr Oren told Israel Radio: "We do not feel tension. There is no breakdown in the relationship.

"We are dealing with this on all levels and we will reach an agreement with camaraderie and co-operation. We have no ally like the US. It is a strong bond and I'm sure it will be resolved."

Mr Oren's comments came as US and Israeli officials prepared for talks next week in Jerusalem which are promising to be among the most important held between the two countries for many years.

The US officials are hoping to extract guarantees from Israel to freeze building activity in Jewish settlements, while Israel will try to focus the talks on what they see as a looming threat from Iran if it develops a nuclear program.

But Mr Oren's comments were overshadowed by Mr Lieberman who sparked his second controversy in two weeks.

Last week he attacked the credentials of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

Yesterday he instructed Israel's diplomats to distribute a 68-year-old photograph of Husseini sitting next to Hitler in Berlin during the war. A Foreign Ministry spokesman confirmed to The Australian that the order had been given by Mr Lieberman "without any argumentation because it was deemed to be self-explanatory".


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