Coalition MKs and members of the opposition took to the floor at public events around the country Saturday to weigh in on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s handling of both the international nuclear negotiations with Iran in Geneva and the current state of US-backed Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.
Science and Technology Minister Yaakov Peri (Yesh Atid) said that the difference in opinion between the US and Israel vis-à-vis Iran’s nuclear program and a potential international deal was not so deep, but that there was a chance it could snowball into “a crisis.”
Speaking at a Shabbat culture series event in Tel Aviv, Peri said that he supported Netanyahu and his view that Iran shouldn’t be allowed a relief of any international sanctions until it made a genuine, substantive step forward in reining in the rogue program.
“Israel also prefers a diplomatic solution [to the Iranian issue] than a military option,” Peri said, “but Israel insists that any agreement with Iran also be acceptable to it.”
On the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, Peri said that finding a two-state solution was imperative for Israel’s future. He lashed out at Housing and Construction Minister Uri Ariel (Jewish Home) for announcing the planning of 20,000 new housing units beyond the Green Line this week, at such a sensitive moment in the American-brokered dialogue with the Palestinians.
He stated that the rift between Yesh Atid and the right-wing Jewish Home was large, and that if an agreement with the Palestinians was placed on the table, one of the two parties would likely have to leave the coalition. “Sooner or later,” he was quoted as saying, the coalition would likely fall apart over the issue.
Labor Party’s Yitzhak Herzog had harsh words for the prime minister, castigating Netanyahu for the public handling of his disagreement with the US over the Iranian nuclear negotiations.
“It’s okay to have disagreements with [US Secretary of State John] Kerry, but not publicly,” he said at a cultural event in Beersheba. “I urge the prime minister to stop this very public journey [on Iran].”
He added that Netanyahu’s concern over the Iranian nuclear program is one “that we all agree with,” but that his manner may lead the Iranians to accelerate their nuclear program, causing “Israel to lose international support on the issue without actually achieving a thing.”
Herzog also criticized Netanyahu for his poor handling of an apparent “price tag” incident earlier in the week, during which a Palestinian house in the West Bank was torched in what seemed to be a revenge attack after a Palestinian teen stabbed an IDF soldier to death.
Also on Saturday, Labor opposition leader Shelly Yachimovich warned that her party was acting very “carefully” in its strategy toward the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks. She said that Labor wouldn’t make the same mistake it did under Ehud Barak, when it was a member of the Netanyahu-led government during a time of “political freeze” in the peace process with the Palestinians.
Yachimovich also called Netanyahu’s handling of his disagreement with the US on Iran a “slap in the face to the Americans, our greatest ally.”
The head of the left-wing party Meretz, Zahava Gal-on, said Netanyahu was “sabotaging” and “undermining” US President Barack Obama’s efforts to engage with Iran.
“Netanyahu doesn’t object, as he wrote on his Facebook page, to a ‘bad agreement with Iran,’ but to any agreement that’s directly negotiated between the United States and Iran,” she said, adding that “it’s in Israel’s interest to support the US goal of preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons through a diplomatic agreement that will employ stringent monitoring and verification, and not the winds of war.”