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Lieberman: Netanyahu has lost greatest strategic asset with U.S. on Iran

Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman said on Wednesday that President Donald Trump has changed direction on Iran’s nuclear program, and that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has therefore lost “his greatest strategic asset,” that of his coordination with the US on the issue.

Speaking in fine fettle at the Maariv-Jerusalem Post conference on Wednesday, Liberman also blasted the prime minister as acting out of political expedience, and said that his recent declarations on Iran and the Jordan Valley were designed to cover up “his capitulation to terror, his capitulation to the ultra-Orthodox, his capitulation to the budget deficit.”

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.

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

“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 did not believe Trump would turn on Israel. “We don’t have the right to give them advice. They think firstly on the US, and we must think how we deal with this new situation,” he said.

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.

When asked about the upcoming elections, Liberman evaded a question as to 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 hardline members of the Yamina party.

Liberman said that he would not in any way agree to dissolve the Knesset again for a third round of elections 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.”

He said that, “On that day, the members of the Likud party will all run to replace him.”

Asked if he has had contact with senior Likud officials about ejecting Netanyahu, Liberman claimed that they he had not reached out to them but that many Likud officials have 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 also took the opportunity to mock and goad Netanyahu, and derided his promise to annex the Jordan Valley, saying it was “more likely that he will annex the Sahara Desert first.”

The Yisrael Beytenu leader also mocked Netanyahu for a recent slip of the tongue, when he commented in his cabinet meeting earlier this week that he had met with Boris Yeltsin, when he meant UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

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