Lieberman Takes Aim at Saudis

Lieberman has taken on two new tasks -- inviting the UK Foreign Minister to Israel and publicizing Saudi Arabia’s human rights violations.

Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu , | updated: 11:53

British Foreign Secretary William Hague
British Foreign Secretary William Hague
Israel news photo: Flash 90

Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman has taken on two new tasks -- inviting Britain’s new Foreign Minister William Hague to visit and publicizing Saudi Arabia’s human rights violations.

The Foreign Ministry this week breathed a sigh of relief after Nick Clegg, the Liberal Democratic leader who has condemned Israel and backs a boycott, fared worse than expected at the polls. He was appointed Deputy Prime Minister in the new Conservative government, leaving the Foreign Office post for Hague, a Conservative.

The “Saudi Arabia track” features a campaign to use various North American and European lobbies to raise public awareness of human rights violations in what the United States and media label a “moderate” Arab country. Foreign Minister Lieberman has concluded that Saudi Arabia is financing an international campaign to de-legitimize Israel, according to the Hebrew-language newspaper Maariv.

It reported that the campaign has been secret until now and will include the status of women in Saudi Arabia, which limits their rights and prohibits them from driving. Last year, one woman was punished with 40 lashes for being a passenger in a car driven by an unmarried man, also forbidden.

The Foreign Ministry plans to ask the Obama government to pressure Saudi Arabia to change its policies and will brief Jewish groups and lobbies to insist that the kingdom correct human rights violations. Ministry officials are investigating the possibility of filing lawsuits in international courts.

While Saudi Arabia promotes itself as moderate Muslim country, it has refused any diplomatic contacts with Israel and has gone out of its way not even to sit at the same table with Israelis at conferences.

On the other hand, Hague (pictured) immediately said after his appointment that he is “natural friend” of Israel. He said he would have voted against the Goldstone report, while Clegg has constantly condemned Israel for the Operation Cast Lead counterterrorist war against Hamas. Clegg also has joined pro-Arab and mass media descriptions of the restrictions at Gaza crossings as a “blockade” that "imprison” Arabs.

Lieberman’s invitation to Hague does not necessarily mean there will be an immediate visit, Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor told Israel National News Friday. “It is customary for the Foreign Minister to congratulate a newly elected counterpart, but it will take time before the new government begins to function on all levels.”

Hague has said that Iran is his number one issue. Britain also has to deal with issues such as the war in Afghanistan and Iraq and its relations with Russia and China. It has had increasingly less influence on the Middle East since the European Union began taking on a more active role.

Relations with the previous Labor government Foreign Secretary David Miliband were often less than cordial and worsened after the discovery that Israel allegedly used British passports in the assassination of Hamas co-founder Mahmoud Mabhouh in Dubai earlier this year.