Lieberman urges discretion on Iran
Tells 'Post': "[Israel] doesn't need to be on the front line on this issue."
By GIL STERN STERN HOFFMAN
October 26, 2006 23:50
3 minute read.
ahmadinejad walking, 298.
(photo credit: AP)
Israel Beiteinu leader Avigdor Lieberman urged taking a surprisingly soft stance on the nuclear threat from Iran in an interview with The Jerusalem Post on Thursday.
Lieberman said he would no longer speak about Iran with the press after the cabinet and Knesset, as is expected, approved his appointment on Monday as deputy prime minister and minister-without-portfolio in the Prime Minister's Office in charge of strategizing for the Iranian threat. He said the Iran issue must be handled discretely and not in the media.
Solana: PM, Lieberman at odds on Iran
"We have to wait and see what the European Union, United States, Russia and China do about Iran," Lieberman said. "We don't need to be on the front line on this issue. We just have to sit and wait."
Lieberman's answer concurred with the line taken by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's government but sounded much different from his call just five years ago to bomb Teheran.
"What was right five years ago is not necessarily right today," Lieberman said.
European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana said on Wednesday that Lieberman and Olmert had opposing views on Iran, but Lieberman disagreed with that assessment. He also lashed out at the international wave of criticism against his appointment.
In an editorial published Wednesday, The New York Times said Olmert made an "unwise" move in adding Lieberman to the cabinet. The paper compared Olmert's addition of Israel Beiteinu to the cabinet to the Palestinian voters' decision to elect Hamas, calling both "obstacles to peace."
"I don't have to correct the world's ignorance," Lieberman said. "I intend to be consistent, no matter what they say. It has been 13 years since the Oslo process began. We have lost thousands of Jewish lives, it caused grave economic damage and peace is still far away. The New York Times and the Left must realize that maybe they were wrong and maybe their understanding of history was incorrect."
Lieberman said he hoped Defense Minister Amir Peretz would "be wise enough" not to try to dismantle illegal settlement outposts without coordinating first with the leadership of the settlers. He said Peretz's policies on the issue were not those of the government.
Although Israel Beiteinu will join the government without receiving any portfolios, Lieberman said his 11-member faction deserved three portfolios and he would demand that any of them that opened up would go to his party. Lieberman added Israel Beiteinu to the list of parties demanding the vacant Social Affairs portfolio, joining Kadima, Labor, Shas, United Torah Judaism (UTJ) and the Pensioners Party.
Olmert has said he was reserving the Social Affairs portfolio for a representative of UTJ, which he hoped to add to the coalition next week.
Pensioners Party MKs met with Finance Minister Avraham Hirchson on Thursday and warned him that their faction would oppose the expansion of the coalition if their budgetary demands were not met. The demands include canceling cuts in old age payments, increasing the Health Ministry budget and the Social Affairs portfolio.
Pensioners Party leader Rafi Eitan will meet with Peretz and Shas Chairman Eli Yishai over the weekend to coordinate a strategy for obtaining a more socio-economically friendly budget in return for the support of the three factions for the 2007 state budget.
A source in the Prime Minister's Office said he expected the Pensioners Party to vote for Lieberman's addition and the budget. Olmert will meet with members of the Pensioners faction next week.
Likud Party chairman Binyamin Netanyahu criticized Lieberman at the start of a meeting of the Likud secretariat on Thursday.
"This week, it became clear that the Likud is the only alternative to lead the country," Netanyahu said. "It's either the Olmert government or a Likud-led government."
Netanyahu's Likud rival, MK Silvan Shalom, said that Netanyahu could have prevented Lieberman from joining the government if he had led a public campaign calling for a state commission of inquiry to investigate the war in Lebanon.
"The key to bringing the Likud back to power is to be an opposition that takes action," Shalom said.