Mofaz: PM dangerously interfering in US election

Kadima chairman accuses Netanyahu of scaring public with Iran talk at swearing-in of new MK Dabah, Home Front Defense Minister Dichter.

Mofaz speaks at Knesset 370 (photo credit: Knesset Spokesman)
Mofaz speaks at Knesset 370
(photo credit: Knesset Spokesman)
Kadima chairman Shaul Mofaz on Thursday accused Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu of conspiring to bring down US President Barack Obama, in a feisty speech at a special Knesset session called to approve the appointment of Avi Dichter as home front defense minister.
The Knesset voted 41-26 to approve Dichter replacing Matan Vilna’i, who will leave on Wednesday for Beijing to serve as ambassador to China. In a Knesset session marked by foulups, Dichter tried to sit at the cabinet table before he was sworn in, and Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin ended the session without letting him deliver his acceptance speech, which had already been distributed to the press. Mofaz said that after Netanyahu had tired of interfering in internal Kadima politics, he had shifted to meddling in the US presidential election between Obama and presumptive Republican candidate Mitt Romney.
“Mr. Prime Minister, you are trying to grossly and dangerously interfere in the US election in an unprecedented manner,” Mofaz said. “Whom do you serve and why? Why are you putting your hands deep in the American ballot boxes? You are playing a dangerous game that will endanger our children’s future.”
MKs took turns bashing Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak for the political maneuver in which they persuaded Dichter to jump ship from Kadima, quit the Knesset, and join the cabinet as a professional appointee.
“The prime minister is using Dichter’s good name for a corrupt and cynical maneuver,” Mofaz said. “A home front defense minister should not be a rubber stamp in the hands of those planning a hasty attack [on Iran’s nuclear facilities] that has not been coordinated with the United States. Mr. Prime Minister, you are trying to scare the public, and the truth is we are scared because you are implementing such dangerous and irresponsible policies.”
Mofaz said the Home Front Defense Ministry was unnecessary and had not been given real authority. He mocked Netanyahu for not finding a minister already in his hefty cabinet to take the job.
“It seemed there was a reality show called ‘Who wants to be home front defense minister,’” Mofaz said.
MK Yoel Hasson (Kadima) said Netanyahu was “acting as if the Time magazine headline ‘King Bibi’ had gone to his head, but he will be replaced, and so will Prince Barak.”
Barak and coalition chairman Ze’ev Elkin (Likud) said Vilna’i had proven the ministry’s necessity.
“Had Mofaz still been in the cabinet, he would have brought the same appointment at the same time and said the ministry was essential,” Elkin said.
When Dichter’s resignation took effect on Thursday morning, he was replaced in the Knesset by the next person on the Kadima candidates list, Ahmed Dabah, a businessman and former mayor in the Galilee town of Deir el-Asad.
“I have enormous pride in being part of the Knesset representing the country where I, my children and grandchildren were born,” Dabah said in his acceptance speech. “As a former mayor and as a businessman, I have seen the suffering of residents in general and minorities in particular. I know there is not much time left for this Knesset, but I will try to change the public agenda and the political system.”
Dabah, who became the Knesset’s record 17th non-Jew, noted that “representation of minorities has grown in this Knesset.” He vowed to “fight for equality and respect for Arab citizens in Israeli society.”