Avigdor Liberman. .
(photo credit: GOVERNMENT PRESS OFFICE)
In an escalating war of words over settlements, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman (Yisrael Beytenu) and Bayit Yehudi traded attacks on Thursday.
On Wednesday, Liberman had advocated for settlement construction in the blocs and a freeze in outlying areas, adding that right-wing ministers should accept the fact that the Amona outpost, located on a hill overlooking the Ofra settlement, will be evacuated as ordered by the High Court of Justice.
Some coalition partners were dismayed at the remarks, with Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely (Likud) saying the defense minister should wait until US President-elect Donald Trump assumes office, before beginning to reshape the status quo on diplomatic understandings.
On Thursday, the debate heated up. “Liberman is a relentless chatterbox,” a statement from the national-religious Bayit Yehudi party read.
Advising the defense minister to stick to his portfolio, the statement said Liberman should “focus on the elimination of [Hamas leader Ismail] Haniyeh, instead of establishing a Palestinian state along Route 6.”
Liberman had promised to have Haniyeh killed within 48 hours of his appointment to the Defense portfolio, a month before he entered the coalition.
The defense minister, a self-described “right-wing pragmatist,” has also supported a two-state solution based on mutual land swaps, including drawing the border to include Arab towns in the Triangle region of Israel, east of Kfar Saba, in a future Palestinian state.
Liberman rejected the criticism, saying that the government should be proactive in its approach. In a thinly veiled criticism of Bayit Yehudi chairman Naftali Bennett’s record in government, he said: “What’s the use slogans if you don’t build anything?”
“I’m a man of results, not slogans. When I look at the past four years, and do a simple accounting of what has happened in the settlements, unfortunately the results are not good. Very poor,” Liberman said.
Responding to Hotovely’s criticism, he said, “If she wasn’t attacking me, nobody would know she exists. Nobody is even sure what she is doing in the Foreign Ministry.”
Hotovely replied, saying the public knows the difference between who is pretending to be right-wing, only to swing left when it suits them, and someone who is implementing the values of the Right. “As deputy minister, I know the sensitivities around the [US presidential] transition period,” she said.