Erdan: ‘Give Liberman a Chance’

Outgoing Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon, seen during a farewell ceremony in the Kirya, the Tel Aviv IDF headquarters, on Sunday. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)
Outgoing Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon, seen during a farewell ceremony in the Kirya, the Tel Aviv IDF headquarters, on Sunday. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan told came to the defense of defense minister-designate, Avigdor Liberman on Sunday, seeking to counter an avalanche of criticism of the appointment.

“As someone who has known Avigdor Liberman personally for more than 20 years, I am confident that he will make an excellent minister of defense,” Erdan said at a conference in New York organized by The Jerusalem Post last week.

“I believe that it is good that every once in a while, we have a defense minister who does not come from the military establishment,” the minister said. “Someone from the outside can bring fresh thinking and a fresh perspective to the IDF.”

The opposition has decried the choice of Liberman, a right-wing politician bereft of military experience, as a sop to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s right-wing constituency.

Addressing the leftist critics, Erdan said that Liberman as the Defense Minister will not harm any efforts to revive the peace process, as they claim.

“To all those on the Left who want to pin on Liberman’s appointment the chances of advancing the peace process — the primary obstacle to advancing the peace process has been and remains Abu Mazen’s [Mahmoud Abbas’] decision to boycott the Israeli government and refuse negotiations.”

Meanwhile, Liberman also received a favorable note from Martin Indyk, the former U.S. ambassador to Israel.

Indyk said he regretted the departure of outgoing Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon, but pointed out that Liberman had publicly backed Secretary of State John Kerry during his peacemaking efforts in the Mideast.
“Liberman says reprehensible things but I remember that he supported Kerry’s peace efforts when Yaalon was insulting him,” Indyk wrote.

As foreign minister in the previous Netanyahu administration, Liberman endorsed Kerry as a true friend and proposed a population swap as part of a final status agreement with the Palestinians.

Yaalon, meanwhile, was forced to apologize to the U.S. after a report quoted him as saying in private meetings that Kerry’s diplomatic efforts stemmed from an “incomprehensible obsession” and “a messianic feeling,” and suggested that Kerry should “take his Nobel Prize and leave us alone.”

It reflected the opinion of many Israelis, but it was not something that could be accepted from a senior official.

Also on Sunday, a U.S. government official denied claims that the appointment of Liberman as defense minister will have an adverse impact on negotiations for the next ten-year military aid package.

The official also said that the White House is waiting until the cabinet shuffle has reached a conclusion and all new appointments are confirmed before it issues an official response.

The denial was prompted by a local media report citing Washington sources who asserted that Yaalon was a key figure in the negotiations and the entry of Liberman into the picture would “create difficulty” in the highly sensitive defense talks.