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Liberman didn’t tell PM before Munich statement, or later apology — TV report

Channel 2: ‘Complete disconnect’ between defense minister, who only joined the coalition in late May, and Netanyahu

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (right) and Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman announce a coalition agreement, May 25, 2016 (Yonatan Sindel/FLASH90)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (right) and Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman announce a coalition agreement, May 25, 2016 (Yonatan Sindel/FLASH90)

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman did not inform Benjamin Netanyahu before his ministry issued an incendiary statement Friday comparing the US-backed Iran nuclear deal to the 1938 Munich agreement, and neither did he inform Netanyahu before issuing a semi-apology for that statement on Monday, Israel’s Channel 2 reported Tuesday.

Relations between the two men, who held a good-humored signing ceremony in the Knesset on May 25 to mark Liberman’s Yisrael Beytenu Party joining the coalition, are now in “complete disconnect,” the TV report said.

Liberman blindsided Netanyahu on Friday when, in response to President Barack Obama’s assertion a day earlier that Israeli security officials now back the year-old nuclear deal, the Defense Ministry issued a bitter statement castigating the Iran accord and likening it to the European powers’ 1938 agreement with the Nazis. Netanyahu swiftly issued a far milder statement of his own.

Over the weekend, the TV report said, Liberman recognized the damage his ministry’s statement could do in Washington, where Israel is finalizing the terms of a 10-year US military aid package. On Sunday, therefore, he contacted US Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro to state that he hadn’t meant the statement to offend the Obama administration. And on Monday, before issuing a partial apology, he contacted Shapiro again, and talked him through the new text, Channel 2 said.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (left) with US Ambassador Dan Shapiro in April 2013. (photo credit: Flash90)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (left) with US Ambassador Dan Shapiro in April 2013. (photo credit: Flash90)

The statement the ministry had issued on Friday, in which it savaged the year-old nuclear deal, “was not intended to draw a direct comparison, not historically or personally (with the major powers agreement with the Nazis). We are sorry if it was understood differently,” the ministry said in its new text on Monday.

It was clarifying its earlier statement, the ministry said, because “the media had incorrectly interpreted it.”

There was no confirmation of Tuesday’s TV report.

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