In an implied attack on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman said Friday Israel was doing too much talking about Iran’s nuclear weapons program, and that “if you want to shoot, shoot, don’t talk.”
The Yisrael Beytenu party chief recalled that when prime minister Menachem Begin decided to blow up Saddam Hussein’s nuclear reactor at Osirak in 1981, “we woke up the next morning” to hear about it for the first time. Similarly, in 2007, when Israel allegedly destroyed a Syrian nuclear reactor, “there was no talk about it” ahead of time.
Israel’s constant talking and moaning about the Iranian program, and about the US-led negotiations on a deal with Iran, were harming Israel’s deterrent capabilities, Liberman said in a Channel 2 interview, without citing Netanyahu by name. He also said Israel’s failure to bring down Hamas in Gaza last summer weakened Israel’s deterrence.
Liberman, whose party ran together with Netanyahu’s Likud in 2013’s elections, constantly criticized the handling of the war throughout the summer, calling to oust Hamas from Gaza, even as he sat in the security cabinet.
Netanyahu has consistently warned against Iran’s nuclear drive, and will speak to the US Congress on March 3 against an imminent American-backed deal that he says he fears would legitimize Iran as a nuclear threshold power.
“We need decisiveness, determination, not whining,” Liberman said.
While it was necessary to highlight the fact that Iran is moving toward the bomb, “no agreement will stop them,” and Israel “needs to decide for itself what to do. If you want to shoot, shoot, don’t talk,” he said. “Ultimately, we have to take a decision.”
Netanyahu said earlier Friday that a UN report critical of Iran’s evasiveness over its nuclear program was further proof that the international community should reconsider the direction of its negotiations with Tehran.
“The IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) report again demonstrates that Iran refuses to come clean to the international community about its preparations for producing nuclear weapons,” Netanyahu said. “The world powers should not be courting Iran in order to have it accept a deal that would leave it with the possibility of producing nuclear weapons, while (Tehran) refuses to divulge the details on its nuclear weapons program.”
Netanyahu has long been opposed to the apparent deal taking shape in talks with Iran. He has angered the White House with his open opposition to a deal he believes threatens Israel’s existence, and by accepting a Republican invitation to address Congress about Iran in early March without consulting the White House, a breach of diplomatic protocol.
US President Barack Obama and US Secretary of State John Kerry indicated early on that they would not meet with Netanyahu during his visit, with the State Department announcing Thursday that Kerry was likely to be out of town during the speech. Earlier this week, officials in Vice President Joe Biden’s office said he would be on a state visit to Latin America when Netanyahu addresses the joint session of Congress.
Channel 2 news reported Friday night that most Democratic senators and congressmen would attend the speech, and that Netanyahu is “locked into” delivering it, despite criticism at home and abroad.
Kerry is set to resume negotiations with his Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif on Sunday, and Israel anticipates the US may make “more concessions,” the TV report said.