Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman has attacked the right-wing members of the government who oppose the American peace initiative in a speech that was seen by many as a departure from Mr Lieberman’s own sceptical positions towards the diplomatic process.
In his speech, the foreign minister criticised those “competing who can be more rude and strident towards John Kerry. I want to make it clear, Kerry is a true friend of Israel.”
Mr Lieberman was responding to the anger in Israel over remarks made by the US secretary of state two weeks ago in which he warned Israel of the dangers of a global boycott if the peace process fails.
Mr Lieberman did not mention any details of the framework agreement the Americans are planning to present both Israel and the Palestinian Authority, but he stressed that “John Kerry is leading the process in a correct way and we are preparing principles for the Americans so we can base on them direct negotiations with the Palestinians.”
He acknowledged there were differences of opinion with the Americans but “that isn’t new. Kerry isn’t a member of [settler movement] Gush Emunim and he has a right to a different opinion from the cousin [Economics Minister] Naftali Bennett who shouts and has something to say about everything.”
The foreign minister focused his ire on Mr Bennett, who attacked Mr Kerry last week for serving as “a mouthpiece” for antisemitism.
“I see Bennett running to the microphones,” Mr Lieberman said dismissively, “but I don’t see him running to the opposition. There’s a difference between statements and intentions. He won’t volunteer to give up his many roles.”
Mr Bennett chose not to respond personally to the criticism but sources in his party attacked the “zig-zagging Lieberman” and said “he hasn’t decided whether he is closer to [far-right politician] Michael Ben-Ari or to [left-wing leader] Zehava Galon.” They accused him of “enjoying being stroked by the Americans” and promised that Habayit Hayehudi “will continue standing up for Israel’s interests and won’t become addicted to American stroking”.
In a radio interview, Mr Lieberman denied he was acting in “a moderate and appeasing way. I am being realistic and pragmatic. There is nothing new here. These stigmas of a responsible grown-up versus an angry young man are superfluous.”
Mr Lieberman underlined, however, the “huge difference between me and Bennett; I will be prepared to evacuate my home in [the settlement] Nokdim if I believe there is a final agreement which ensures all of Israel’s interests.”