Liberman: Netanyahu incapable of stopping the Iran deal
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Liberman: Netanyahu incapable of stopping the Iran deal

In scathing rebuke, Yisrael Beytenu leader says PM lacks the leadership qualities required for the task, is ‘getting us nowhere’

Marissa Newman is The Times of Israel political correspondent.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and then-foreign minister Avigdor Liberman in the Knesset, February 3, 2014. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and then-foreign minister Avigdor Liberman in the Knesset, February 3, 2014. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman on Friday strongly criticized Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s handling of the Iran nuclear deal, charging that thwarting the agreement between Tehran and world powers was “too much for him.”

In a withering interview with the Hebrew-language Yedioth Ahronoth daily, the former foreign minister and once staunch ally of the prime minister also ruled out joining the coalition, and criticized Netanyahu for publicly airing his grievances with US President Barack Obama.

“They simply laugh at us when we start to talk about Iran,” said Liberman about the international community. “We need to replace the prime minister,” he said.

The Iran nuclear deal is “too much for him,” Liberman added. “In order to deal with the issue, you must be creative. Determined. Make tough decisions. He has none of these [qualities].”

Netanyahu is “an excellent campaigner, the best we have here. He knows how to make promises he doesn’t intend to keep,” Liberman charged. “He’s getting us nowhere.”

The opposition Knesset member added that he had outlined his own plan to oppose the nuclear deal, and presented it in the “appropriate forums.

“On the Iranian issue, I am the most well-versed, and know best how to deal with it, ” he said. “I have a detailed plan on what must be done. I don’t intend to talk about it publicly.”

Regarding the openly chilly US-Israel ties, Liberman maintained that the prime minister was wrong to comment on the strained relationship.

“The whole fight between Netanyahu and Obama is one big mistake. So there are disagreements. You don’t need to share them with the whole world. This only proves how alone we are,” Liberman said.

Addressing the coalition, Liberman — the leader of the only right-wing party in the opposition — said he would not team up with Netanyahu unless the coalition agreements “were radically changed.” The current coalition is “the antithesis of everything I believe in,” Liberman maintained.

He also said it was unlikely that any other party would join the coalition, beefing up its razor-thin 61 seats, arguing that Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid and the ultra-Orthodox parties would not agree to work together.

“I also have a hard time imagining Shelly Yachimovich and Miri Regev working together, or Danny Danon and Micky Rosenthal. It won’t work,” he said.

Liberman predicted that new elections would be held in the first four months of 2016. Still, he said he did not regret backing Netanyahu for prime minister.

“There are a lot of things I am sorry about. But this recommendation is not one of them,” he said.

Since joining the opposition, the candid Liberman has not held back his criticism for Netanyahu. In an interview with The Times of Israel in June, Liberman said the prime minister is “all talk” when it comes to thwarting Iran, and in practice “it’s clear that he doesn’t have any intention to do what we need to do to prevent Iran from [attaining] nuclear capabilities.”

Liberman has also frequently denounced Netanyahu’s policies on settlement construction, Hamas, his concessions to the ultra-Orthodox parties, and his stance on conversion.

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