The Israeli government will not take the steps necessary to stop Iran from getting the bomb, former foreign minister Avigdor Liberman said.
In an interview in which he savaged his former political ally Benjamin Netanyahu, 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, who chose not to take his six-member Yisrael Beytenu Knesset faction into the new coalition, also charged that the government has a “silent agreement” with Hamas under which the Islamist terror group is being allowed to rebuild and improve its military infrastructure in Gaza.
“When [Defense Minister Moshe] ‘Bogie’ Ya’alon and Bibi [Netanyahu] say Hamas is deterred, they’re not deterred. We’re deterred,” Liberman told The Times of Israel. “We pay Hamas for the current relative quiet via a silent agreement, in which, under the table, we agree that they are rehabilitating their entire terrorist infrastructure. Hamas is working 24/7 — digging new tunnels, producing new missiles, much more accurate and devastating. I visited the Gaza envelope communities. You can look out of the residents’ windows and see with the naked eye how Hamas is building fortifications. Most of the materials they’re smuggling in are coming from Israel, not from the Sinai. We know this and we agree to it, and we give our silent agreement to their rehabilitation of their terrorist infrastructure.”
Asked why the Netanyahu government was allowing this to happen, Liberman said: “I cannot understand.”
He also predicted that there would be another war with Hamas in the summer of 2016.
Liberman has been a persistent critic of Netanyahu’s policies on Gaza, including when he served as foreign minister during Operation Protective Edge last summer, but his multi-faceted castigation of the prime minister in the course of the interview, conducted Tuesday in his Knesset office, was unprecedented.
He not only assailed Netanyahu’s handling of the Iran face-off and the battle against Hamas, but also accused the prime minister of betraying his own principles by doing deals with terrorists, presiding over what he called a “pogrom” at the Foreign Ministry by relieving it of its responsibilities, and selling out Israel’s most important demographic sector — those who serve in the IDF and the reserves, and work and pay taxes — by caving to ultra-Orthodox demands in the construction of his new coalition.
Liberman, who has worked closely with Netanyahu since the late 1980s — he served as director general of the Likud party and as director general of the Prime Minister’s Office under Netanyahu, held several ministerial posts in Netanyahu-led governments and allied his Yisrael Beytenu party with Likud on a joint list in the 2013 elections — asserted that the prime minister ripped apart his last coalition because of unfounded concerns that his coalition partners were plotting against him.
“The only thing that interests him is his political survival,” Liberman said of Netanyahu, and “he always has all kinds of fears… It’s very easy to incite his thoughts… Nobody wanted to bring him down” in the last coalition; he dissolved the Knesset “for no good reason.”
Netanyahu, said Liberman, suffers from something “like political paranoia.”
Also in the interview, the former foreign minister set out a vision of what he called “a regional, comprehensive solution” in the Middle East, saying he did not “believe that it’s possible to resolve our dispute with the Palestinians in the bilateral framework.” He said he would back a freeze in building at isolated settlements — even including his own home settlement of Nokdim — but lambasted Netanyau for failing to build as necessary in Jewish neighborhoods over the Green Line in Jerusalem and in the settlement blocs. “I don’t want to build in [the Arab Jerusalem neighborhood] Jabel Mukaber, but I can’t accept that we don’t build in Gilo, Ramot and East Talpiot. Don’t build in Nokdim. I’m an isolated settlement. But not to build in Ma’aleh Adumim, in Alon Shvut?”
Without specifying, Liberman said he had presented the last cabinet with a strategy for ousting Hamas from Gaza without the Israeli military reconquering the Strip, and that the key was ensuring Israel knew who would take charge of Gaza after Hamas’s reign was brought to an end.
He also urged Israel to reward those who stand with it from the Israeli Arab community — notably the Druze, Bedouin and Christian Arabs who fight in the IDF — and said Israel had a dire history, instead, of seeking to appease extremists.
And he reserved withering criticism for the international community on Iran, accusing it of acting immorally in its engagement with the regime.
“The Iranians don’t rest for an instant. Their goal is wipe out Israel. They make no secret of it. In the Rouhani era, they repeat it every week,” said Liberman. “It’s absolutely dreadful that the countries of the world are prepared to maintain diplomatic relations, prepared to reach an agreement with a country whose official policy is to wipe out the State of Israel. It’s terrible from a moral point of view. They know that they are signing an agreement with a country that says openly that its goal is to annihilate the Zionist entity. And the nations of the world meet with them, and laugh with them, and they shake hands and dine together. And they sign agreements with them.
“There’s no doubt, to my sorrow,” he said, “that this is a return to the Munich policy (of appeasement).”