Activist Moshe Ifergan, who represented Likud on a political panel on Monday, described the 2009 Bar-Ilan speech – in which Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu recognized the two-state solution – as “a brilliant way of thwarting [U.S. President Barack] Obama.” Ifergan also described the president of the United States as “anti-Semitic,” but later apologized.
The event was held at the Lev Academic Center – a religious Zionist yeshiva in Jerusalem. “I want to retract the word ‘anti-Semitic," he said later, "but an ill wind blows from Obama.”
Also participating in the panel were MK Karin Elharar (Yesh Atid), Shira Mistral (Yisrael Beiteinu), Eytan Schwartz (Zionist Union) and others. A spokesman for the center's students said that Ifergan was sent by Likud as a replacement for Yehuda Glick, who was unable to attend. According to those present, Ifergan’s initial statement was not greeted by applause or any other reaction from the audience.
Ifergan, a prominent party activist from Jerusalem, sounded less vehement in general when asked for clarification.
“I meant to say that in the speech Netanyahu presented tough conditions on the subject of Jerusalem and demilitarization – conditions that the Palestinians are in effect unable to accept,” said Ifergan. “Netanyahu proposed autonomy while the Palestinians want a state, and in so doing he stopped the pressure on Israel. Netanyahu’s plan is like [Naftali] Bennett’s ‘calming plan.’”
Asked about accusing the American president of anti-Semitism, Ifergan explained that he meant that "Obama’s response to the [January 7] terror attack in Paris raises a suspicion of anti-Semitism. Obama said that these were random victims, who happened to be Jews. I later apologized for speaking like that about anti-Semitism, but I feel that Obama harbors something that is beyond criticism of us, something internal as well.”
Ifergan was referring to an interview in February with Obama, in which the latter said that “it is entirely legitimate for the American people to be deeply concerned when you’ve got a bunch of violent, vicious zealots who behead people or randomly shoot a bunch of folks in a deli in Paris.”
Later the White House spokesman, John Earnest, explained that Obama considers the attack in Paris an anti-Semitic incident.
For fear of a backlash after the panel discussion, Ifergan said he was under time pressure, and that he appeared as a favor to the yeshiva students. During the previous election campaign, when he was in an unrealistic slot on the Likud slate (he is not on the list now), he got into trouble when he created the “yellow star” anti-Naftali Bennett ad campaign, and was officially condemned by his party.
Said Uri Zaki, the Meretz representative on the Jerusalem panel, who reported the extraordinary statement by Ifergan on his Twitter account: “I respect Ifergan for telling the truth. Netanyahu never intended to establish a Palestinian state. The Bar-Ilan speech was created due to a fear of Obama at the beginning of his term. Since then Netanyahu has not poked a finger in Obama’s eyes, he’s poked 10 fingers, and now Netanyahu isn’t afraid to reverse himself regarding support for a Palestinian state.”
Schwartz of Zionist Union said: “It’s fun to come to panels, because every time a Likud representative says something else.”
Since the prime minister’s speech before Congress last week, some Likud spokesmen at election events in educational institutions have been inciting audiences against various elements.
For example, at an event on Tuesday at the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon charged that there is “ an unprecedented campaign here to encourage left-wing and Arab voters, and English-speakers are the ones doing it. There are nonprofit organizations here that are funded by foreign money – European money and other groups that don’t want to see Netanyahu [in power].” Later clarified that he was talking about money from foreign governments.
Likud said in response: “We totally condemn these serious and improper statements – which do not represent the viewpoint of Likud and the prime minister.”
Earlier this week, Likud election headquarters published an announcement to the effect that Prime Minister Netanyahu believes that the Bar-Ilan speech is no longer relevant in light of the present situation in the Middle East. Several hours after the fact, the Prime Minister’s Office published a denial of that declaration, insisting that “Netanyahu did not say that the Bar-Ilan speech is void.”
Rather, the PMO said, "Netanyahu has been explaining for years that in the present circumstances in the Middle East any territory that is handed over will be seized by extremist Islamic groups, as happened in Gaza and in South Lebanon – and certainly in a situation where the Palestinian Authority is allied with the Hamas terror organization.”
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