Providing further evidence of the strain in relations with the Obama administration over Iran’s nuclear program and peace talks with the Palestinians, Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman said this week that Israel needs to look for other allies besides the U.S.
Asked about U.S.-Israel relations at an academic conference in Sderot on Wednesday, Liberman said, "The link between Israel and its main strategic partner the United States has weakened.”
“Israel’s foreign policy for many years went in one direction toward Washington, but my policy has more directions,” Liberman said, according to the Jerusalem Post.
"There are enough countries that we can be a help to and therefore our foreign policy must be to search for allies,” the foreign minister said. “The Americans have a lot of problems and challenges around the world that they need to solve and they have problems at home. We need to understand them and our place in the global arena.”
"We need to stop demanding, complaining, moaning and instead seek countries that are not dependent on money from the Arab or Islamic world and who want to cooperate with us in the field of innovation,” Liberman further said according to French news agency Agence France-Presse.
“It’s naive to think that countries will help us because of altruism,” he added.
Tension between Washington and Jerusalem has been high as the Obama administration is reported to be willing to accept a sanctions-easing interim deal with Iran that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has called “bad and dangerous.”
Israel is not the only country in the region to feel a cooling in relations with the U.S. After the Obama administration announced it was partially suspending military aid to Egypt following the ousting of Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated President Mohammed Morsi, Russia has reportedly been discussing a major arms deal with the North African nation.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry further miffed Israelis earlier this month by meting out harsh criticism of the construction of Jewish housing in West Bank settlements during an Israeli television interview. In the interview, Kerry also warned of a “third Intifada,” or Palestinian uprising, and of the potential for increased international pressure to boycott Israel, suggesting Israel needs to make painful concessions to the Palestinians.
One Israeli government official speaking anonymously to Channel 2 called Kerry’s words “intimidation tactics.”
In his Wednesday talk, Liberman slammed those calling on Israel to make “painful concessions,” saying those demands “come from people who don’t know the history or the facts.”
“Settlements weren’t an obstacle for peace with Egypt or Jordan. On the other hand, we evacuated settlements in Gaza and got [rocket] fire. Historically, there is no connection between settlements and peace agreements,” he said.
Labor Party Member of Knesset Nachman Shai accused Liberman of “throwing out the baby with the bathwater.”
“Public arguments with the U.S. happened in the past, but there is no other country on Earth with such a broad common denominator with Israel or that is so important to us,” Shai said, according to the Jerusalem Post. “The U.S. stands next to Israel in dozens of incidents and issues every day and is our safest defensive shield.”
The foreign minister returned to his position last week after being cleared of corruption charges.