Liber­man calls on Bennett to calm down

Asks for more time to kill Ha­mas head • Says he’ll bring de­fense pact with US

Jerusalem Post - - NEWS - • By GIL HOFF­MAN

De­fense Min­is­ter Avig­dor Liber­man tried to ease ten­sion be­tween Prime Min­is­ter Ben­jamin Ne­tanyahu and Ed­u­ca­tion Min­is­ter Naf­tali Bennett Mon­day at a meet­ing of his Yis­rael Beytenu fac­tion in the Knes­set.

Liber­man said Bennett needed to “calm down” and con­trib­ute “fewer dec­la­ra­tions and more co­op­er­a­tion.” Not­ing his re­cent joke about having surgery to heal his short fuse, he rec­om­mended that Bennett un­dergo a sim­i­lar pro­ce­dure.

In a speech Sun­day to mark Jerusalem Day, Bennett ac­cused Ne­tanyahu of be­ing “dis­loyal to the Land of Is­rael.”

“You can­not be in fa­vor of the Land of Is­rael in He­brew and form a Pales­tinian state in English,” Bennett said in re­gard to Ne­tanyahu’s stated will­ing­ness to re­vive peace talks based on a re­vised ver­sion of a 2002 Saudi peace ini­tia­tive.

Likud of­fi­cials re­sponded Mon­day by ac­cus­ing Bennett of “hypocrisy that knows no bounds.” The of­fi­cials added that if Bennett pulls his party from the gov­ern­ing coali­tion, ev­ery­one would know it was for per­sonal, not ide­o­log­i­cal rea­sons, and all blame will be placed on him.

“He who sat with [then min­is­ter] Tzipi Livni in the gov­ern­ment that held di­rect ne­go­ti­a­tions with the Pales­tini­ans sud­denly saw the light mirac­u­lously at the same time that Liber­man was ap­pointed de­fense min­is­ter,” a Likud of­fi­cial said.

“It is ab­surd that the great­est threat to a wide, rightwing gov­ern­ment is the head of Bayit Ye­hudi.”

Ku­lanu leader Moshe Kahlon called upon all coali­tion part­ners to be­have responsibly, telling his fac­tion on a tour of the City of David arche­o­log­i­cal site that due to the chal­lenges the gov­ern­ment is fac­ing, “we don’t have the priv­i­lege to be dragged into in­ter­nal bat­tles.”

Liber­man de­fended him­self from charges that he had been in­con­sis­tent ide­o­log­i­cally, not­ing that he has been say­ing that keep­ing the Jewish peo­ple to­gether was more im­por­tant than main­tain­ing all of Is­rael’s land since 2004. He said that due to chal­lenges in the re­gion, Is­rael re­quired the widest pos­si­ble gov­ern­ment.

Army Ra­dio re­vealed Mon­day that Liber­man had can­celed a visit to the con­tro­ver­sial Amona out­post. He ex­plained to the fac­tion that he had can­celed all the plans he made as an op­po­si­tion MK, call­ing Amona “a hot potato that will be dealt with ac­cord­ing to the law.”

Asked about his state­ment as an op­po­si­tion MK that he would as­sas­si­nate Ha­mas leader Is­mail Haniyeh within 48 hours if he be­came min­is­ter of de­fense, Liber­man asked the press for pa­tience. He said he had only been de­fense min­is­ter for a week and rec­om­mended that the question be asked at the end of his term.

An­swer­ing a question from The Jerusalem Post about the de­fense pact Is­rael is work­ing on with the US, Liber­man re­vealed that he will be go­ing to the US in two weeks to meet with Amer­i­can of­fi­cials and hinted that the mat­ter would be a central is­sue on his trip. Liber­man en­joyed rel­a­tively good re­la­tions with the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion when he was for­eign min­is­ter.

“I hope to help reach un­der­stand­ings and agree­ments on aid in the best way pos­si­ble,” he said.

US am­bas­sador to Is­rael Dan Shapiro told The Jerusalem Post fol­low­ing a meet­ing with the Bayit Ye­hudi fac­tion that he was hope­ful that a new de­fense pact be­tween Is­rael and the US could be reached soon. Shapiro said he be­lieves Liber­man can play a pos­i­tive role in reach­ing an agree­ment.

Julie Steiger­wald contributed to this re­port.

(Hadas Parush/Flash90)

DE­FENSE MIN­IS­TER Avig­dor Liber­man speaks dur­ing the Yis­rael Beytenu fac­tion meet­ing at the Knes­set yes­ter­day.

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