Isabel Kershner
The New York Times
December 12, 2012 - 12:00am

JERUSALEM — Israel’s blunt-talking foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman, gave vent on Wednesday to the government’s anger over recent diplomatic gains by the Palestinians paired with international rebukes for Israel, comparing Israel’s situation to that of Czechoslovakia in 1938 before the Nazi invasion.

Israel was dismayed last month when all the countries of Europe, other than the Czech Republic, supported the Palestinians or abstained when the General Assembly voted overwhelmingly to upgrade the status of the Palestinians at the United Nations.

The country was further aggrieved when several major countries responded to its immediate announcement of plans for further settlement planning and construction in East Jerusalem and the West Bank by summoning Israeli ambassadors to protest.

Defiantly standing by the settlement plans, Mr. Lieberman and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu have expressed outrage over what Mr. Netanyahu described as a “deafening silence” abroad after Khaled Meshal, the political leader of Hamas, vowed to build an Islamic Palestinian state on all the land of Israel during a visit to Gaza over the weekend.

Addressing members of the foreign news media here on Monday, Mr. Netanyahu asked why Palestinian diplomats were not summoned in European capitals to explain why Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the Western-backed Palestinian Authority, not only had failed to condemn Mr. Meshal’s remarks but instead was speaking about reconciliation with the rival Hamas, which Israel, the United States and the European Union regard as a terrorist organization.

Mr. Lieberman, who leads the nationalist Yisrael Beiteinu Party, has often spoken his mind in terms that critics would describe as undiplomatic. Mr. Netanyahu, of the conservative Likud Party, has on occasion distanced himself from his foreign minister’s remarks. But in October these two coalition partners announced that their parties would run on a joint ticket in the January elections, and Mr. Lieberman has effectively become Mr. Netanyahu’s No. 2.

Speaking in English at a conference for foreign diplomats in Israel sponsored by the newspaper The Jerusalem Post, Mr. Lieberman said, “When push comes to shove, many key leaders would be willing to sacrifice Israel without batting an eyelid in order to appease Islamic radicals and ensure quiet for themselves.” He added, “We are not willing to become a second Czechoslovakia and sacrifice vital security interests.”

Excerpts from the speech were broadcast and reported on The Jerusalem Post’s Web site.

In another response to the Palestinians’ successful bid to upgrade their status at the United Nations to that of a nonmember observer state, Israel refused to transfer tax revenues it had collected on behalf of the Palestinian Authority last month, instead using the money to pay off part of a debt run up by the Palestinian Authority to the Israel Electric Corporation and other Israeli providers. Mr. Lieberman said Wednesday that it would take four months for the Palestinian Authority to repay its debts from tax revenues and that no money would be transferred from Israel to the authority until the debts were paid off.


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