At his first-ever news conference on February, 15, 2012 new Israeli ambassador Joseph Shagal stated that he knows nothing of Belarusian political prisoners.
«I am a citizen of Israel and we do not have political prisoners. As for Belarus, I am not aware. I should read newspapers. In half a year I will answer your question», the ambassador said. «I am a journalist and know right well how articles are written. Have you ever been to political prisoners’ camps?»
Yosef Shagal pointed out that his country exercised restraint with respect to the West’s sanctions on Belarus. «We vote based on relations with our partners but never propose anything like this in the same way as Belarus does not propose anti-Israeli initiatives but votes on them,» said the ambassador. Israel tries to be «as restrained as possible» at international debates on the situation in Belarus, he said. «Being guided by this restraint, Israel has never made any serious accusations against Belarus. When voting on documents, it votes on the basis of parity, including in instances where Belarus votes against Israel on issues concerning Palestinian-Israeli relations».
The new Israeli ambassador to Belarus was appointed in October, 2011. He started serving in Minsk at the end of January, 2012.
Yosef Shagal was born in Baku, he worked as a journalist in Israel, on Ninth Channel TV among others. He was elected to the Israeli Knesset of the 17th convocation.
On January 8, 2012 the Supreme Court of Justice of Israel disallowed the claim by «For Authorities’ Purity» movement against his appointment as an ambassador to Belarus. Their attention was drawn by the fact that it was Avigdor Lieberman, Foreign Minister of Israel, who had offered Shagal’s candidature. It should be noted that the investigation concerning activities of Lieberman, the former Israeli Ambassador to Belarus, had been initiated before. But judge of the Supreme Court of Justice Esther Hayut noted that the decision to appoint Shagal was made proceeding from professional skills of the candidate.
On January, 25, 2012 Josef Shagal told ITON TV that he knows Alexander Lukashenka personally. «In my opinion, Lukashenka is a leader. He has certain disadvantages but it is the merit of him that Belarusians had good standards of living. Whatever might be told about the rigging of election the Belarusian people who were voting in a normal way are sure to prove that they had their salaries and pensions in time, the country was clean, the economy worked well,» the diplomat said. «Belarus is being isolated: a powerful wave is primarily moving from Europe and the US. They accuse Belarus of human rights violations completely ignoring that almost the same, but on a larger scale, is happening in Russia. Being Israelites we know what a policy of double standards is, and we do understand the countries which get into the same situation».