Likud panelist calls Obama an anti-Semite, later apologizes

Ruling party member says Netanyahu’s Bar-Ilan speech in 2009 was ‘genius’ way of getting US off his back; Likud slams remarks

US President Barack Obama delivers the State of The Union address on January 20, 2015, at the US Capitol in Washington, DC. (Photo credit: AFP/POOL/MANDEL NGAN)
US President Barack Obama delivers the State of The Union address on January 20, 2015, at the US Capitol in Washington, DC. (Photo credit: AFP/POOL/MANDEL NGAN)

A Likud activist said Monday that US President Barack Obama was an anti-Semite and that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s famous Bar-Ilan speech in 2009, in which he called for the creation of a demilitarized Palestinian states, was a “genius way of leading Obama on.”

Speaking at an elections event at the Lev Academic Center in Jerusalem, the activist, Moshe Ifergan, later backtracked on the loaded remark, saying he wished to “take back the word anti-Semite,” according to Haaretz.

But Obama does give off a bad vibe, he said.

The Likud party released a statement saying it “condemns these grave, inappropriate remarks which do not represent the stance of the party or the prime minister.”

When later contacted by Haaretz to clarify the comment, Ifergan said that Obama’s statement following the terror attack at the kosher supermarket in Paris last month “raised suspicions of anti-Semitism.”

The president drew sharp criticism in February for saying the murders at the Hyper Cacher supermarket in the French capital were”random.” The White House later said the president knew the attack was anti-Semitic.

Ifergan apologized for the remark, he said, yet feels that “Obama’s criticism [of Israel] goes beyond [criticism of Israeli policy].”

With regard to the Bar-Ilan speech, Ifergan said that Netanyahu intentionally presented hardline conditions to the Palestinians in his address, with regard to Jerusalem, to demilitarization… these are conditions the Palestinians would find hard to accept.”

“Netanyahu offered autonomy; the Palestinians wanted a state. This is how he stopped [international] pressure on Israel,” he told Haaretz.

The 2009 Bar-Ilan speech was back in the headlines this week after a confusing back and forth reagrding statements by Likud members, remarks attributed to Netanyahu and official comment by the Prime Minister’s Office as to where the PM stands on the two-state solution and the creation of a future Palestinian state.

On Sunday, Netanyahu’s office denied that he had backed away from his support in principle for a two-state solution and that he had ruled out ceding any territory to the Palestinians — contradicting statements issued earlier by his own Likud party.

The confusion underlined Netanyahu’s efforts to maintain backing on the right without alienating other potential supporters and the international community ahead of the March 17 elections.

Netanyahu had been quoted earlier saying that the creation of a Palestinian state was no longer relevant in the current reality in the Middle East, and that there would be no territorial withdrawals.

“Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that any evacuated territory would fall into the hands of Islamic extremism and terror organizations supported by Iran. Therefore, there will be no concessions and no withdrawals. It is simply irrelevant,” read a statement released by his Likud party.

However, the Prime Minister’s Office insisted later Sunday that he had “never said any such thing.”

The confusing back and forth statements came after the “Olam Kattan” newsletter, distributed in synagogues on Friday nights, published a Q&A with the Likud and other parties in which one Likud response claimed the policies expressed by Netanyahu in his Bar-Ilan speech “have been annulled.”

“Netanyahu’s entire political biography is the struggle against the establishment of the Palestinian state,” the response said. Haaretz reported that Likud MK Tzipi Hotovely, a proponent of annexing the West Bank, had drafted this answer.

The Likud campaign clarified on Sunday that “Netanyahu did not make any statement to the effect that the Bar Ilan speech was annulled.” With that, both the Likud and the Prime Minister’s Office noted that Netanyahu had long maintained that “under current conditions in the Middle East any land that is handed over would be grabbed by Islamist extremists.”

The internal Likud claim and counter claim over Palestinian statehood and territorial compromise came two days after Yedioth Ahronoth published a document purportedly drafted by Israeli officials outlining the PM’s alleged concessions to the Palestinians.

According to the document, Netanyahu agreed to negotiate a peace deal on the basis of the 1967 borders, with land swaps; to acknowledge Palestinian aspirations in East Jerusalem; to evacuate settlers from the West Bank; and to allow those who so choose to remain under Palestinian rule.

The publication rattled the Likud party and drew harsh criticism from politicians to the right of Netanyahu, including Yisrael Beytenu head Avigdor Liberman and Jewish Home leader Naftali Bennett.

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