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
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
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
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