Naftali Bennett ‘very worried’ by firing of Bolton, Trump steps on Iran

“We should be very worried. Trump is obviously a big friend of Israel, but at the end of the day are interests are not identical, he has his interests we have our interests,” said Bennett
Yamina Knesset candidate Naftali Bennett speaks at the The Jerusalem Post-Ma'ariv Elections Conferen
Yamina Knesset candidate Naftali Bennett speaks at the The Jerusalem Post-Ma’ariv Elections Conference, September 11 2019 . (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)

Senior Yamina party leader Naftali Bennett said he was very worried about the dismissal of US National Security Adviser John Bolton by US President Donald Trump and the president’s stated willingness to meet with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani.  Speaking at the Maariv-Jerusalem Post conference on Wednesday, Bennett was asked how worried he was by these recent events, and the possibility that Trump’s hostilities with the Iranian regime could end up with the rapprochement he has pursued with North Korea. Bennett responded that he was “very” worried that Trump was seeking to come to terms with Iran.  “We should be very worried. Trump is obviously a big friend of Israel, but at the end of the day our interests are not identical, he has his interests we have our interests,” said Bennett.  “The whole idea was to create pressure [on Iran] which worked. We applied kinetic pressure by pushing away the entrenchment of Iran in Syria and other places, and they [the US] brought about pressure through sanctions. If we relax [the pressure] it will be very bad,” asserted the former cabinet minister.  “Our situation is much better than it should be, in Syria and Iraq. In Lebanon it is so-so. And with Iran, the situation is not far from lost but I am very, very troubled.” And Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman was also of the opinion that Trump has changed direction on Iran’s nuclear program, saying that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had therefore lost “his greatest strategic asset,” that of his coordination with the US on the issue.  And Liberman took the opportunity to blast the prime minister as acting out of political expedience on multiple fronts, saying 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 dont have the right to give them advice. They think firstly on the uS, and we must think how we deal with this new situation.  There is no doubt that Bolton was very 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.” Said Liberman “On that day the members of the Likud party will all run to replace him.” Asked if he has had contacts with senior Likud officials about ejecting Netanyahu, Liberman claimed that they he had not reached out to them but that many Likud officials were had 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 Aryeh] Deri, and everyone else.