- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 12, 2012

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.”


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.

Mr. Warlick, who arrived in the Bulgarian capital of Sofia in January 2010, told journalists there is no truth to reports that he is being replaced by a female ambassador before his normal departure date sometime next year.

“Let me be completely clear,” he said. “There is still no decision on how long my stay here will be.”

He explained that American ambassadors serve at the pleasure of the U.S. president but added that he has received no word from the State Department of a reassignment.

A Bulgarian television station first reported the news on Wednesday, citing anonymous diplomatic sources.

Mr. Warlick, a career diplomat, has frequently drawn criticism for his advocacy of law and order in Bulgaria, a nation plagued with organized crime and judicial corruption.

Anti-immigrant politicians have denounced him for supporting the rights of minorities.

Last year, President Georgi Parvanov last year complained that Mr. Warlick was interfering in Bulgaria’s domestic affairs for appearing to mock a discussion between Mr. Parvanov and Defense Minister Anyu Angelov.

However, that dispute resulted from a mistranslation of Mr. Warlick’s remarks at a public policy forum.

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297 or email jmorrison@washingtontimes.com. The column is published on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

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