Liberman Urges Caution on Settlements, Iran

YERUSHALAYIM -
Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman (Emil Salman/Pool)
Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman. (Emil Salman/Pool)

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman said over the weekend that Israel should not undertake any major policy changes in Yehudah and Shomron until the administration of President-elect Donald Trump is installed in January – and only then to act, in conjunction with the U.S. “We should not create new surprises, but wait to discuss our issues with the new administration,” Liberman said at the Saban Forum in Washington.

Since the election of Trump, Liberman has sounded a very conservative stance on advancing Israeli building plans in Yehudah and Shomron. While other government ministers expressed satisfaction at Trump’s election and predicted that Israel would have a freer hand in Yehudah and Shomron, Liberman has been advocating patience, and has urged the government not to act until at least the new cabinet is in place. “It’s clear that the key to the future of the settlements is understandings with the U.S.,” said Liberman. “My views are well known and I have made them known in the cabinet. It would be best to postpone all legislation until after January 20th.”

With that, Liberman advocated several viewpoints that diverge sharply from those that Trump has advocated in recent weeks. Trump himself has said that he planned to seek changes in the Iran nuclear agreement, but Liberman opposes this as well. “There is no need to change the agreement, just to enact the sanctions that are part of it.” One recent violation, said Liberman, was the display in Tehran of ballistic missiles on which were written “death to Israel.” That display, Liberman said, was a violation of the agreement, and should be punished within the framework of the agreement. “It is important to keep imposing sanctions because they violated the agreement,” Liberman said, and the justification for imposing further sanctions was because the nuclear agreement existed in the first place.

Trump has also spoken of reducing America’s role in the Middle East, but according to Liberman, the U.S. must not do that. “It will be impossible to come to a solution in Syria without American involvement. Assad and Iran must be removed from the country. This is the responsibility of the United States, which is the strongest superpower in the world. The U.S. cannot isolate itself. Assad and the Iranians must be put into their proper place.”