A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Stealth Diplomacy? Lieberman Goes to London; British Barely Notice

Avigdor Lieberman visited London yesterday for his first official visit, meeting with Foreign Secretary David Miliband and leaders of the British Jewish community. If you didn't hear about it, you aren't alone. For whatever reason, the visit received little coverage, and there was no press availability for the British media. The Jerusalem Post headline that the visit was "shrouded in secrecy" may be a bit much, since the Israeli media covered it, but the British media seems to have been unusually (and uncharacteristically) silent.

Certainly Lieberman is a controversial figure, and presumably neither the British nor the Israelis wanted to attract demonstrations and protests, though apparently there were some of those anyway, at least as covered by Iran's Press TV. I haven't done a comprehensive search but it doesn't appear in the headlines of the BBC's Middle East website, despite their reporting on Netanyahu visiting King ‘Abdullah II in Aqaba, and other diplomatic journeys.

A search of Google news also doesn't show much from the British media: something called The Palestine Telegraph covered it; otherwise it's mostly Israeli media and some Arab media that are paying attention to it. Right now the only British coverage I can find is on the Foreign Office's website, and even then the meeting between Lieberman and Foreign Secretary Miliband was, at this writing, fourth on the FO's list of news of the day, though admittedly I accessed it today and the visit occurred yesterday. (In the Foreign Office photo Lieberman is smiling broadly; Miliband is not. I'd post the photo but unlike US Government photos, which are public domain, the Brits claim Crown Copyright, so I'll refer you to the FO site instead.)

The first meeting of a new Foreign Minister with the British Foreign Secretary is not, usually, "shrouded in secrecy." It does suggest that Lieberman is indeed going to be something of an issue with many Western governments, who may seek to keep him at arm's length even while doing the diplomatic necessities.

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