Senior Israeli ministers criticized Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman Saturday night for pushing Israel into a war of words with North Korea, Israel Radio reported, accusing him of jeopardizing Israeli security with loose talk.
The radio station did not name the top cabinet members, who said Liberman should speak less and focus more on maintaining national security.
“We have nothing to do with North Korea, so why jump up?” one incensed minister reportedly said. “Don’t we have enough enemies?”
The unexpected diplomatic row with North Korea sparked criticism of Liberman by other Israeli politicians as well.
Former defense minister Moshe Ya’alon, a frequent critic of his successor, wrote on Twitter: “The ‘minister of talk’ is chattering irresponsibly about North Korea. And there is no prime minister to rein in the babbling and posturing ministers.”
Meanwhile MK Shelly Yachimovich of the Zionist Union remarked on Twitter: “We have enough enemies. Let’s focus on them.”
North Korea threatened to punish Israel and accused Liberman on Saturday of “rash and malicious” statements that insulted its leadership, after he criticized the Asian nation and called its leadership “extremist and insane.”
In an official foreign ministry statement, Pyongyang said Liberman had challenged North Korea by making “rash and malicious” comments against the nation.
“Our consistent message is to mercilessly punish those who offend the dignity of our leadership,” the statement said.
“We warn Israel to think twice about the implications of its defamation campaign against us.”
The statement further condemned Israel for its nuclear policy, and accused the Jewish state of abusing the rights of Arabs across the Middle East.
“Israel is the only illegal possessor of nuclear weapons that enjoys the support of the United States, but Israel is attacking North Korea for possessing nuclear weapons,” the statement read, going on to claim this was a cynical move intended to distract from Israeli “occupation” and “crimes against humanity.”
On Thursday Liberman said Pyongyang “seems to have crossed the red line with its recent nuclear tests,” adding that its nuclear weapons program posed more of a threat to world order than Iran or any terrorist group.
“We’re just ahead of a new era of accurate missile and unconventional weapons in the hands irrational people,” Liberman said.
In an interview with the Walla News website earlier in the week, furthermore, Liberman referred to North Korean leader Kim Jong-un as “the madman from North Korea.” He said Pyongyang was allied with Syria, Iran and Hezbollah — all part of “an axis of evil” led by “an extremist and insane group” whose single purpose was to “destabilize the entire world.”
The US aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson on Saturday kicked off a joint drill with the South Korean navy, officials said, as tensions rose over North Korea’s latest test-fire of a ballistic missile.
The drill came hours after the North launched a ballistic missile in apparent defiance of a concerted US push for tougher international sanctions to curb Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons ambitions.
AFP contributed to this report.