Naftali Bennett ‘very worried’ by firing of Bolton, Trump steps on Iran

“We should be very worried. Trump is obviously a big friend of Israel, but at the end of the day are interests are not identical, he has his interests we have our interests,” said Bennett.

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September 11, 2019 22:20
3 minute read.
Yamina Knesset candidate Naftali Bennett speaks at the The Jerusalem Post-Ma'ariv Elections Conferen

Yamina Knesset candidate Naftali Bennett speaks at the The Jerusalem Post-Ma'ariv Elections Conference, September 11 2019 . (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)

Senior Yamina Party leader Naftali Bennett said he is very worried about US President Donald Trump’s dismissal of his national security adviser, John Bolton, and the president’s stated willingness to meet with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani.

Speaking at the Maariv-Jerusalem Post conference on Wednesday, Bennett was asked about these recent events, and the possibility that Trump’s hostilities with the Iranian regime could end up with the rapprochement he has pursued with North Korea.

“We should be very worried,” said Bennett. “Trump is obviously a big friend of Israel, but at the end of the day our interests are not identical; he has his interests, we have our interests.

“The whole idea was to create pressure [on Iran], which worked. We applied kinetic pressure by pushing away the entrenchment of Iran in Syria and other places, and they [the US] brought about pressure through sanctions. If we relax [the pressure], it will be very bad. Our situation is much better than it could be, in Syria and Iraq. In Lebanon it is so-so. And with Iran, the situation is not far from lost, but I am very troubled.”

Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman agreed with Bennett that Trump has changed direction on Iran’s nuclear program, saying that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had therefore lost “his greatest strategic asset” – coordination on Iran with the US.

“Netanyahu’s greatest strategic asset was supposedly his coordination with the US on the Iranian issue,” said Liberman, who was in a particularly feisty mood. “His campaign propaganda is based on pictures of him with Trump.”

Asked about the implications of Trump’s decision to fire his hawkish, pro-Israel national security adviser John Bolton, who has taken a very hard line on Iran, Liberman said it meant Netanyahu could no longer claim close coordination with the US on the issue.

“The removal of Bolton from the White House as national security adviser means only this: the end of all the coordination from a basic perspective between Netanyahu and the White House on the Iranian nuclear program,” the former defense minister claimed. “For the State of Israel, it is a very great problem. It places before us complex challenges.”

He said, however, that he does not believe Trump would turn on Israel.

“We don’t have the right to give them advice,” Liberman said. “They think firstly of the US, and we must think how we deal with this new situation. There is no doubt that Bolton was very close to the position of Israel [on Iran], and the fact that he was fired is a change of direction there.”

Liberman also took the opportunity to blast the prime minister as acting out of political expediency on multiple fronts, saying that his recent declarations on Iran and the Jordan Valley were designed to cover up “his capitulation to terrorism, his capitulation to the ultra-Orthodox, his capitulation to the budget deficit.”

When asked about the upcoming election, Liberman evaded a question on whether he would recommend Blue and White leader Benny Gantz instead of Netanyahu, repeating his mantra that Yisrael Beytenu will “recommend a broad, liberal national unity, without the ultra-Orthodox and without the messianics,” the latter a reference to the hard-line members of the Yamina Party.

Liberman said that he would not agree to dissolve the Knesset again for a third election should there be a political stalemate after the September 17 ballot, and asserted that if Netanyahu cannot muster the backing of 61 MKs to recommend him to the president to form the next government, “on that day, his historic role will be finished. On that day, the members of the Likud Party will all run to replace him.”

Asked if he has had contacts with senior Likud officials about ejecting Netanyahu, Liberman claimed that he had not reached out to them, but that many Likud officials had been in touch with him.

“All the senior Likudniks phone me, and they are speaking with [ultra-Orthodox political leaders United Torah Judaism MK Moshe] Gafni and [Shas chairman Arye] Deri, and everyone else,” Liberman said.


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