Embassy Row: Ambassador angers Arab

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A leading Arab member of the Israeli parliament is threatening to sue the Israeli ambassador to the United States over an article the diplomat wrote that portrays him as a supporter of suicide bombers.

Ahmad Tibi, the fiery deputy speaker of the Israeli Knesset, this week accused Ambassdor Michael Oren of distorting his views in a recent, lengthy paper in Foreign Policy magazine.

Mr. Oren attacked me, distorted my words, and claims that I support suicide attacks against Israeli citizens, which is the absolute opposite of my position,” Mr. Tibi wrote in a letter to Raffi Barak, director-general of the Foreign Ministry.

He demanded that the ambassador retract the offending remarks.

In his April 5 article, Mr. Oren defended Israel’s democracy against critics who accuse the Jewish state of mistreating Palestinians.

Israel has tolerated acts that would be deemed treasonous in virtually any other democracy. Ahmed Tibi, who … recently praised Palestinian martyrs - a well known euphemism for suicide bombers - serves as a member and deputy speaker of the Knesset,” Mr. Oren wrote.

He added that “discrimination, unfortunately, is common to virtually all countries, and Israel also grapples with it.”

However, Mr. Oren noted that Israeli Arabs serve in parliament, on the Supreme Court, in the diplomatic corps and in the military, although they are exempt from service in the Israel Defense Forces that is compulsory for most other Israelis.

In his article, Mr. Oren also noted that Mr. Tibi once served as adviser to Yasser Arafat, the late chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization that long waged a terrorist campaign against Israel.

Mr. Oren was referring to a widely quoted statement attributed to Mr. Tibi earlier this year when he addressed a ceremony organized by the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank to honor “shahids,” or martyrs.

Mr. Tibi said the martyr is the “symbol of the homeland.”

“They are shahids who the occupier calls terrorists, and we say are fighting for the homeland,” he said, referring to Israel as an occupation force in Palestinian lands.

Mr. Tibi, who has been reprimanded several times by the Knesset’s ethics committee, last year called Israel’s Russian-born foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman, a “fascist settler.”

WARLICK NOT LEAVING

U.S. Ambassador James B. Warlick Jr., a lightning rod for anti-American criticism in Bulgaria, on Thursday denied press reports that Washington plans to recall him before the end of a normal three-year diplomatic tour.

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About the Author
James Morrison

James Morrison

James Morrison joined the The Washington Times in 1983 as a local reporter covering Alexandria, Va. A year later, he was assigned to open a Times bureau in Canada. From 1987 to 1989, Mr. Morrison was The Washington Times reporter in London, covering Britain, Western Europe and NATO issues. After returning to Washington, he served as an assistant foreign editor ...

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