Israeli coalition leaders butted heads on Thursday over the correct approach to building in Judea and Samaria in light of the impending Donald Trump presidency. Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman accused Jewish Home party leader Naftali Bennett of spouting “empty slogans” and advocated for increased coordination with the United States. The Jewish Home party responded by saying Liberman should stop “volunteering to establish a Palestinian state” in the heart of Israel.
Speaking this morning at an assembly of local council spokespersons in the city of Ashdod, Liberman responded to criticism leveled by Education Minister Naftali Bennett after defense minister said on Wednesday he was willing to freeze all construction in Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria apart from the main blocs.
“I am a pragmatic right-winger, as opposed to the dogmatic right wing,” said Liberman of Bennett. “I am not driven by slogans. I respect Bennett but I have very different views. We need to be responsible and build a relationship with the US that will enable the development of communities in Judea and Samaria. What good are all the slogans if you don’t build anything?”
“When I think back on the last four years in Judea and Samaria, unfortunately the record is very poor,” argued Liberman. “The main reason for this was the failure to reach adequate coordination with the the US government. Instead of trying to impose facts on the ground, we have to wait and formulate the new policy with them as soon as possible.”
The Jewish Home party responded by issuing a harsh statement, slamming Liberman as a “tireless babbler.” The national-religious party said that instead of “volunteering to establish a Palestinian state on Route 6” (a main highway through central Israel), Liberman should be focusing on killing Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh.
In May, shortly before he became defense minister, Liberman said Haniyeh would be “dead within 48 hours” if he were to be given the post.