Being in such company, however, didn’t placate former Israeli Ambassador to Paris Yehuda Lankry, who called Sarkozy’s statements “inappropriate” and “unacceptable” and noted that — whatever Lieberman’s reputation as a “hawk” and “hardliner” — since becoming foreign minister he has upheld Netanyahu’s support for the road map and his later, explicitly expressed support for a Palestinian state. Supposedly, these are the positions that the international community, emphatically including Europe, demands of Israeli officials.
Emmanuel Navon, an Israeli lecturer in diplomatic studies, gave some background:
From the first day Lieberman was appointed foreign minister, a scathing campaign bordering on hysteria has been taking place against Lieberman in the French media. I believe it is possible that the French media and Sarkozy himself, who personally knew … Livni, had hoped that she would form the government, or would at least join the coalition together with Netanyahu if she could not be prime minister.
With all due respect, [Lieberman] did not blow up a plane over Scotland. What we are seeing here are double standards. [Libyan leader Muammar] Gaddafi, with his record as a terrorist responsible for one of the most terrible terror attacks at the end of the 1980s, can be accepted. So what? Is Lieberman worse?
Navon, in citing Sarkozy’s strange double standards, had an excellent point.
Sarkozy assumed office as president in May 2007, and by July 25 of that year — one day after Libya’s release of five falsely charged Bulgarian nurses — Sarkozy was already meeting Gaddafi in Tripoli to sign agreements on a host of issues. Sarkozy immediately “faced a barrage of [international] criticism … for agreeing to build a nuclear reactor in Libya” — seen as heavy and dangerous compensation for the nurses’ release.
But on December 10 Sarkozy was as it again, meeting the Libyan leader in Paris for a ceremony in honor of a number of French-Libyan cooperation accords including the military and nuclear fields. Even in France itself, not noted for idealism in foreign affairs, the meeting drew sharp criticism. A Socialist leader said Sarkozy had invited “a head of state who justifies international terrorism,” a centrist politician called the visit “shocking,” and even Sarkozy’s own junior minister for human rights said, “Col. Gaddafi must understand that our country is not a doormat on which a leader — whether terrorist or not — can wipe off the blood of his crimes.”
Gaddafi, for his part, showed his bona fides as an honored guest by pitching a heated, Bedouin-style tent next to the Elysée Palace for his sojourn, reportedly causing Sarkozy “embarrassment.”
Sarkozy has also worked hard to rehabilitate, sanitize, and strengthen Syrian dictator and terrorist enabler Bashar Assad, also believed to be behind the string of assassinations of Rafiq Hariri and other Lebanese nationalists since 2005.
Sarkozy was continuing a personal tradition in targeting the Israeli foreign minister with his ill-mannered words to Netanyahu — a tradition whose obverse is his cozying up to some of the world’s most egregious barbarians.