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Hours before a vote to oust him, outgoing Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reportedly accused President Joe Biden of endangering Israel’s security by taking a soft line on Iran.
He also compared Biden’s Iran policy to the refusal of the U.S. to bomb the Auschwitz concentration camp in 1944.
Netanyahu said that the Biden administration had asked him to keep their disagreements on Iran private, Axios reported, but that he refused to do so, valuing his hard line on Iran over smooth relations with the United States. The prime minister depicted himself as the only man standing between Iran and an arsenal of nuclear weapons, and claimed Iranians were celebrating his departure.
A motley alliance of Israeli parties on Sunday ousted Netanyahu, the country’s longest-serving prime minister, and formed a new government in a seismic shift in the country’s turbulent politics.
Naftali Bennett, a right-wing Jewish nationalist and former tech millionaire, was to take over at the helm of the eight-party bloc, united only by their shared disdain for the hawkish right-wing leader known as Bibi.
Netanyahu, 71, in typically combative style, vowed shortly before his defeat that “if it’s our destiny to be in the opposition, we’ll do so with our heads high until we take down this bad government and return to lead the country our way”.
In his last speech as prime minister, Netanyahu also warned that Bennett, head of a small ultra-nationalist party, would be too weak to stand up to Washington, Axios reported.
“He decided to damage the U.S.-Israel relationship for his own personal interests and is trying to leave scorched earth for the incoming government,” an unnamed senior Israeli diplomat told Axios.
According to the Times of Israel, after his ouster, Netanyahu openly questioned the qualifications of the man he once mentored.
“He doesn’t have the global standing. He doesn’t have the credibility. He doesn’t have the ability and he doesn’t” have the support of his own divided government, Netanyahu said, the news outlet reported.
“The prime minister of Israel must be able to say no to the American government” on issues that threaten Israel, he said, adding that Bennett won’t be able to withstand the pressure, the news outlet reported. “Who will do this now?”
Bennett, now leads the most ideologically diverse coalition in Israeli history, spoke before Netanyahu —though he was heckled by Netanyahu allies as a “liar” and “fraud” — taking a hard line on the Iran deal in his speech, saying it was a mistake in 2015 and remains so today. Yet he thanked Biden for his support for Israel and stressing he wants good relations with both parties in Washington, Axios reported.
Then when Netanyahu rose to speak, he accused Bennett of being weak and untrustworthy and said he’d refuse to stand up to Biden on Iran, positioning himself as the only man standing between Iran and an arsenal of nuclear weapons —and claiming Iranians were celebrating his departure, Axios reported.
Netanyahu also said he’d rejected U.S. demands to freeze settlement construction and opposed Biden’s plan to reopen the U.S. consulate in Jerusalem, claiming Bennett lacked the stature or credibility to take similar stands.
Netanyahu then vowed to bring the “dangerous” government down, and “much sooner than you think.”
“If it is destined for us to be in the opposition, we will do it with our backs straight until we topple this dangerous government and return to lead the country in our way,” he said.