Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

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24 Shevat 5759 - Feb. 10, 1999 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly







Israeli Ambassador to Germany Reprimanded for Antidemocratic Remarks

by Yated Ne'eman Staff

Foreign Minister Ariel Sharon has reprimanded Israel's Ambassador to Bonn, Avi Primor, for comments he made in a German newspaper, deriding the Shas Party and the current government in Israel. A spokesman for Mr. Sharon said Primor's term would not be extended beyond its scheduled end this summer.

Sharon informed Primor personally of the reprimand during a meeting in Tel Aviv. The spokesman said the minister told Primor that no "partisan propaganda" would be tolerated.

"Minister Sharon sees Primor's comments--which reek of political partisanship--in a very grave light," the Foreign Ministry said in a statement. "Mr. Primor has apologized for the political connotations of his words, and also for his statements in regards Orthodoxy in Israel."

In the interview, which was published in Die Welt, Primor is quoted as saying, "Shas's... principles are not based on a democratic-parliamentarian base," but rather on "the words of the Rabbis." He also described Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's handling of the peace process as a "disappointment." Part of Mr. Sharon's anger over the Primor interview may be related to other comments he reportedly made. Primor is quoted as saying that before Netanyahu came to office the country felt hope; after his election, there was a peace slowdown "and for some Israelis, this was disappointing. Many intellectuals said that Netanyahu destroyed this hope."

Primor also reportedly noted that unemployment was lower during the years that Labor was in office.

On the delayed implementation of the Wye agreement, Primor did not stick to Foreign Ministry's current position, which is that the Palestinians are to blame for the impasse and that the elections have no relevance.

Instead, Primor said that "[Netanyahu] will not go forward [with the peace process] during the election campaign."

The Foreign Ministry's staff presented Foreign Minister Ariel Sharon with a harsh letter of protest, griping about the way in which the recall and reprimand of Ambassador to Germany Avi Primor was handled.

"We protest the public way in which this affair was dealt with, which hurt both the office and the professional position of a senior member of our office," the letter said.

It also referred to the meeting between Primor and the Shas leadership, saying that the works committee "condemns the manner in which bodies from outside the office were included in the process of investigation...We need to take care of our issues in house."

Primor had been one of Israel's top envoys, previously serving as ambassador to the European Union in Brussels. He is due to remain in Israel this week as he awaits the arrival of German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer, whose country currently holds the six-month rotating presidency of the EU.

For his part, Shas leader Aryeh Deri publicly forgave the Ambassador for calling Shas an undemocratic party.

MK Shlomo Benizri and Deri both said after a meeting with Primor that they were willing--on behalf of the party--to put the whole affair behind them.

Primor apologized to Deri and Benizri, saying he had not intended to offend anyone. "I expressed myself differently and this was not the way I wanted to see my words printed," said Primor after the meeting. MK Benizri said it is "very unlikely" that Primor's statements "had been misconstrued," as Primor is claiming. However, said Benizri, "Mr. Primor apologized, and we decided to be nice. There is no need to be mean here. Mr. Primor understood that he did something wrong and he will now serve as a lesson to other diplomats, and a reminder that they represent everyone in this country and not just themselves."

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