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Resigned Israeli foreign minister apologises for 'Polish wives' jibe

PR dla Zagranicy
Peter Gentle 17.12.2012 11:46
Avigdor Lieberman, who resigned last week as Israeli foreign minister, has backtracked on a comment deriding three female opposition politicians as being “Polish veibers”.

Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman speaks to the press after handing in his resignation before the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem, Israel, 16 December 2012: photo - EPA/GALI TIBBO

'Veibers', a pejorative term in Yiddish for ''old wives', was used when Avigdor Lieberman - leader of the right-wing Yisrael Beytenu party who has stood down as foreign minister after receiving an indictment on charges of fraud and breach of trust – was ridiculing left and centre-left opposition politicians critical of his role as deputy prime minister in the Lakud/Yisrael Beytenu coalition government.

“I see these three veibers attacking me, Tzipi Livni, [leader of the Labor party] Shelly Yacimovich and [Meretz party leader] Zehava Gal-On – the Polish group,” Lieberman joked ahead of an Israeli general election in January.

The controversial Avigdor Lieberman quickly corrected himself at a meeting of the youth wing of his party last Thursday, saying: “Actually, Zehava is Lithuanian, not Polish.”

The term 'veibers' has a negative connotation in Yiddish meaning chatterboxes or gossipers.

“Polish,” in this context, “is often used in Israel as a derogatory term for what Westerners would call a stereotypical Jewish mother – chronic worriers who are prone to using guilt as a weapon,” writes Jerusalem Post.

After being accused of both sexism and insulting Israelis of Polish decent, the now former foreign minister of Israel wrote on his facebook page: “As someone who appreciates Polish people in Israel and their great contribution over the years to the country, and as someone who in the last election had a list that was one-third female, I didn’t think a little joke would make so much noise.”

Lieberman – born in Moldova in 1958, then in the Soviet Union - has been charged with fraud and breach of trust after being accused of promoting former Israeli ambassador to Belarus Ze'ev Ben Aryeh in the Foreign Ministry after he allegedly exchanged information about an investigation against Lieberman being conducted in Belarus.

Last spring, Ben Aryeh confessed that he had received and passed documents to Lieberman in 2008 on the case.

Lieberman has protested his innocence of the charges and says he resignation is a “temporary separation”.

Lieberman is a controversial, some day 'colourful', politician in Israel. In 2001 he was found guilty of punching a 12 year-old boy in the face when defending his son after a school fight.

In November 2006, he called for the execution of Arab members of the Knesset, the Israeli parliament, after they met with representatives of Hamas, who rule the Gaze Strip.

His opponents also accuse Lieberman of being an “anti-Arab extremist” after calling for an oath of allegiance to be sworn by all of Israel's one million non-Jewish inhabitants and advocated trading parts of Israel that are predominantly Arab in exchange for the land on which major settlement blocs are built in the West Bank.

Lieberman's Yisrael Beytenu party is standing on a joint ticket with the ruling Lakud in January's elections. (pg)

tags: Israel, Jews
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