Liberman criticizes Trump administration for timing of plan

Yisrael Beytenu leader accuses Blue and White of currying favor with the ultra-Orthodox parties

Heads of the Blue and White party, Benny Gantz and Yair Lapid. Avigdor Liberman, Head of rightist Yisrael Beiteinu party. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the weekly cabinet meeting, December 2, 2018 (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Heads of the Blue and White party, Benny Gantz and Yair Lapid. Avigdor Liberman, Head of rightist Yisrael Beiteinu party. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the weekly cabinet meeting, December 2, 2018
Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman strongly criticized the Trump administration over the timing of its release of the peace plan, saying it had guaranteed that debate on it would be superficial and political.
Speaking on Channel 12 News on Saturday night, the former defense minister also accused the Blue and White party of currying favor with the ultra-Orthodox parties and suggested it intends to try and bring United Torah Judaism and Shas into a coalition after the election.
Liberman started out by praising the plan unveiled by US President Donald Trump last week, saying it was “the best plan” for Israel in terms of its contents and the interests of the country.
“The timing of it, however, is very incorrect,” he continued. “Whoever publishes a plan a month before elections, a serious comprehensive diplomatic proposal, needs to take into account that instead of having a deep and foundational debate about it, it will become a tool in a political election struggle.”
The Yisrael Beytenu leader also accused Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of engaging “just in talk” regarding the issue of annexing land in the West Bank, saying that the prime minister had mentioned annexing the Jordan Valley before the last election and before Trump even published his plan, but had not done anything.
“Yisrael Beytenu has a bill that was submitted to the Knesset a long time ago, and the Jordan Valley is within the national consensus,” he said, implying that it could have been passed and implemented long ago.
And in an effort to turn attention back to domestic issues, Liberman alleged that the ultra-Orthodox parties were deserting their long-time ally Netanyahu because of his indictments and seeking new friends in the Blue and White party.
“There is an understanding even with the ultra-Orthodox that the Netanyahu era is over,” declared Liberman. “There is no end of contacts between the haredim and Gantz, direct and indirect.”
Liberman referred specifically to his party’s attempt this week to oust senior UTJ leader MK Moshe Gafni from his position as chair of the Knesset Finance Committee.
Yisrael Beytenu requested from Blue and White faction chair MK Avi Nissenkorn to establish a permanent Finance Committee, something possible in this current interim government after the Knesset House Committee was convened to hear Netanyahu’s immunity request.
Convening a permanent Finance Committee would have allowed the opposition parties, who with Liberman are currently in the majority to remove Gafni as chair, but Blue and White refused to do so.
“We tried to replace Gafni as chair of the finance committee. Those who stymied it were Blue and White. The Blue and White MKs nearly committed suicide for Gafni,” alleged Liberman, who went on to talk about spending on the ultra-Orthodox instead of on broader national interests.
“Is money going to the Health Ministry and to soldiers or is it going to yeshivas and draft dodgers,” demanded the Yisrael Beytenu leader.
He said that the interim Knesset Finance Committee was due to allocate some NIS 845 million in funding for yeshiva stipends this week for 2020, most of which he said would be paid in the first three months of the year.
During his interview, Liberman also rejected accusations that he is responsible for the ongoing political stalemate, saying he had made very clear before the last election that Yisrael Beytenu would only join a national unity government.
“Gantz and Netanyahu preferred to argue who is first and who is second in a rotation agreement [for prime minister], and so they dragged the country into new elections,” he said in reference to the demands of both the Blue and White and the Likud leaders to lead the government first in a rotation agreement.
Both UTJ and Shas responded swiftly to Liberman, apparently anxious to deny they were abandoning Netanyahu. 
UTJ said it was standing firmly behind Netanyahu, and that Liberman was “trolling an entire country” because of his “obsession” with the prime minister.
“As the most failed politician in Israel, without any achievements in the last 20 years, Liberman returned to the media studios this evening with lies and incitement against the ultra-Orthodox, the Arabs, and others,” added UTJ in a statement to the press.
Shas also accused Liberman of lying about its supposed contacts with Gantz, and said he was “making up stories about an imaginary government in order to get some votes,” adding that it would continue to support Netanyahu for prime minister.
Blue and White declined to respond to a request for comment on Liberman’s allegations