'Be loyal to Israel' pleads foreign minister Lieberman

Diaspora Jews should support Israel’s government regardless of its political complexion, according to its controversial Foreign Minister, Avigdor Lieberman.

Speaking at an event hosted by the Jewish National Fund in London on Tuesday evening, Mr Lieberman said that Jews who organised a petition against his visit were a legitimate part of the debate about the future of Israel.

However, he said that it was his personal view that Jews around the world should be loyal to the Israeli government. “My expectation from all Jewish communities around the world is that they support any Israeli government. It doesn’t matter if you have a left government or a right government.”

In discussion with author and political commentator Douglas Murray at the Pillar Hotel in Hendon, Mr Lieberman said Israel suffered from the plethora of mass media outlets ranged against it. He said he had counted 16 Arab channels on his hotel television (“not counting the BBC”).

When the issue of media hostility was raised by the JC in the question-and-answer session, he added in an aside “including the Jewish Chronicle.”

Mr Lieberman saved his most forthright comments for the discussion of Iran. He said engagement with President Ahmedinejad sent “a bad message” and warned that a nuclear Iran would present “the biggest threat to the entire world”.

He said there was a danger this would lead to a “crazy nuclear arms race” in the region with untold consequences. “It will be the reality like horror movies in Hollywood with leaks of nuclear technologies, dirty bombs.”

Mr Lieberman also used his visit to meet Foreign Secretary William Hague. The Foreign Office refused to be drawn into the controversy surrounding the visit, emphasising that the Israeli Foreign Minister was an elected member of his country’s government.

Discussions with Mr Hague are understood to have focused on Iran in advance of the high-level talks in Baghdad with the so-called P5+1 nations (the United States, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany).

Mr Hague was also keen to use the occasion to seek Mr Lieberman’s perspective on the new coalition in Israel and whether it offered a fresh chance to return to negotiations with the Palestinians.

Speaking at the JNF event, the Israeli Foreign Minister expressed his hope that this government would be the first in history to reach a full term, but in the context of the peace process, he said he believed that the ball was in the court of the Palestinians.

Last updated: 2:14pm, May 24 2012