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Israeli foreign minister shifts to center

With perhaps an eye on a future run for prime minister, Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman is establishing himself as a key player in US-Iran relations and in any eventual agreement with the Palestinians.
Israel's Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman (R) greets his Canadian counterpart John Baird before their dinner in Jerusalem January 19, 2013. Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper is on a four-day visit to Israel and the Palestinian Territories. REUTERS/Darren Whiteside (JERUSALEM - Tags: POLITICS) - RTX17LHJ
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A European ambassador in Israel last week told a senior Israeli politician that his country is following with wonder the recent moderate declarations of Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman. The ambassador wished to hear from the politician, who knows Liberman well, how to interpret the change that came over the foreign minister since he was acquitted of charges of fraud and breach of trust and returned to the government. This conversation took place prior to Liberman's speech before the members of the Commercial and Industrial Business Club on Feb. 7 in Tel Aviv, in which he defended US Secretary of State John Kerry from attacks by politicians of the Israeli right. The warm embrace he sent to Kerry, and the declaration, "When there's conflict between the unity of the people and the unity of the land, the unity of the people is more important," surprised the Americans and earned Liberman, at least temporarily, the designation of responsible adult. The barb he directed at Economy and Trade Minister Naftali Bennett that he "runs toward the microphones but not to the opposition," also contributed to this shock.

The US State Department quickly returned the favor with a gesture of its own, and in a special announcement said that the declaration of the Israeli foreign minister was "important and powerful, considering his history and his opinions on these issues."

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