As Avigdor Liberman, Israel’s new defense minister, was appointed and sworn in, the US State Department decided to intervene in internal Israeli politics and use the moment to attack Israel and the Israeli government.
Israel’s new Defense Minister, Member of Knesset (MK) Avigdor Liberman, officially assumed his responsibilities and began to oversee military policy and handle delicate security matters with international allies after Tuesday’s ceremony at the ministry, the Kirya in Tel Aviv, following approval of his appointment by the government on Sunday.
Speaking at a joint press conference with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Liberman said he supports a two-state solution to the conflict with the Palestinians after he was sworn in as defense minister on Monday.
The move comes as the international community appears antagonized by the appointment and views Liberman as an ultranationalist, and Netanyahu’s government as too right-wing.
In Washington, State Department spokesman Mark Toner expressed concerns with Israel’s supposed right-wing tilt.
“This raises legitimate questions about the direction it may be heading in and what kind of policies it may adopt,” Toner told reporters on Wednesday.
The State Department did not express the same level of concern when Iran’s Assembly of Experts chose hard-liner Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati as its new chairman. Jannati is known for his anti-Israel and anti-US stance and his position makes him one of the most powerful figures in Iran.
Liberman, 57, is a resident of Nokdim in Judea, and is one of Israel’s most outspoken politicians. He has held a series of high-level cabinet posts, including serving as Netanyahu’s foreign minister.
He entered politics in the 1990s as an aide to Netanyahu before breaking away and founding Yisrael Beitenu, a party that relies primarily on the vote of immigrants from the former Soviet Union as its base of support. Liberman himself was born in the former Soviet republic of Moldova.
In a statement to reporters after the approval of his appointment, Liberman said he supports “two states for two peoples.”
The defense portfolio was previously held by former military chief Moshe Ya’alon, who resigned last week following talks to expand the government by adding Liberman’s party.
The move solidifies Netanyahu’s parliamentary majority, leading a 66 to 54 majority in parliament, bringing some much needed stability to what had been a shaky coalition.
“Adding Lieberman to the government … threatens to destroy the two-state solution,” warned Saeb Erekat, a senior Palestinian official. “The result will be religious and political extremism, and violence and terrorism and bloodshed.”
In his own remarks after Liberman was sworn in, Netanyahu appears to have partially endorsed the Arab Peace Initiative, a 2002 initiative by Arab states that promised peace and recognition of Israel in exchange for the creation of a Palestinian state, “includes positive elements that can help revive constructive negotiations with the Palestinians.”
Netanyahu said Israel is “willing to negotiate with the Arab states, with revisions to that initiative, so that it reflects the dramatic changes in the region” since it was originally presented. He said it would include the “goal of two states for two peoples.”
Liberman said he agreed with Netanyahu that there are some “very positive” elements in the initiative that could make for a “serious dialogue with all the neighbors in the region.”
By: AP and United with Israel Staff
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