Liberman’s Iran-Munich Deal Comparison Causes Political Uproar

YERUSHALAYIM -
PM Binyamin Netanyahu and leader of the Israel Beyteinu Avigdor Liberman sign an agreement in the Knesset which will bring Israel Beyteinu into the coalition and name him defense minister. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman (L) and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu at the signing of a coalition agreement. At times, it seems Liberman is a little more outspoken than Netanyahu would want him to be. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

In a blatant and surprising diplomatic move, the Defense Ministry released Friday a strong statement blasting the Iran nuclear deal, which set off a political uproar on both sides of the Atlantic.

“The Israeli defense establishment believes that agreements only have value if they are based on the existing reality, but they have no value if the facts on the ground are the complete opposite of those the deal is based upon,” the Ministry said in its statement.

When the deal between Iran and world powers was signed last year, Yisrael Beitenu party leader and current Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman compared it to the 1938 Munich Agreement, calling the deal “total capitulation to unrestrained terrorism and violence in the international arena.”

The Defense Ministry employed similar language in Friday’s statement, which followed the recent claim of President Barack Obama that the Iran deal had been a game changer.

Obama said Thursday that Israeli defense officials are now behind the deal, and that they recognize the efficacy of the accord. The “Israeli military and security community … acknowledges this has been a game changer,” Obama said. “The country that was most opposed to the deal.”

The Defense Ministry’s statement added that “the Munich Agreement didn’t prevent World War II and the Holocaust precisely because its basis, according to which Nazi Germany could be a partner for some sort of agreement, was flawed, and because the leaders of the world then ignored the explicit statements of [Adolf] Hitler and the rest of Nazi Germany’s leaders,” the Ministry said.

“These things are also true of Iran, which also states openly that its aim is to destroy the State of Israel,” it said, pointing to a recent State Department report that determined that Iran is the number-one state sponsor of worldwide terrorism.

The Defense Ministry further said the deal reached “only damages the uncompromising struggle we must make against terrorist states like Iran.”

A short while after the Defense Ministry’s statement, the acting head of the National Security Council, Brig. Gen. (Res.) Yaakov Nagel, called U.S. ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro and told him that Prime Minister Netanyahu was not informed in advance about the statement.

Nagel told the ambassador that Netanyahu stressed that Israel’s stance on the Iran deal had not changed, and he emphasized the centrality to Israel of its vital relationship with the United States, noting that Israel “has no greater ally than the United States.”

Netanyahu, he said, “looks forward to further strengthening the alliance between Israel and the United States, with President Obama, and with the next U.S. administration.”