Lieberman: Netanyahu Not Appointing a Foreign Minister Is a 'Grave Error'

The former foreign minister also told Channel 2 he would not join Netanyau's coalition unless PM fundamentally alters government guidelines.

Olivier Fittousi

Former Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman slammed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Saturday for not appointing a full-time foreign minister in his new government.

"It is a grave error not to appoint a minister to the Foreign Ministry," Lieberman, the leader of the Yisrael Beteinu party, said.

Netanyahu has held on to the foreign affairs portfolio himself, appointing Likud's Tzipi Hotovely as deputy minister.

Speaking to Channel 2's "Meet the Press," Lieberman criticized Netanyahu's decision to keep the portfolio so he can lure him or Zionist Union leader Isaac Herzog into the government in exchange for it in the future. 

"The Prime Minister is also the Communication Minister and the Health Minister. For the national good and not for mere political reasons, I suggest he appoint a full-time foreign minister," he said.

Lieberman also said that he had no intention of joining the coalition as long as Netanyahu doesn't fundamentally alter the government guidelines.

"Don't offer me a thing. Not the Defense Ministry or a power-sharing agreement. Once you change the guidelines, we will be open to the possibility [of joining the government]," Lieberman said.

Responding to criticism that by refusing to joing Netanyahu he was acting againt his voters' wishes, he said, "I agree that my voters wanted a nationalist government, a right-wing government, but what we got is a government of opportunists with but one agenda – political survival. It was the right that forewent the "Nation-State Law" because of pressure from a non-Zionist party."

"How will Netanyahu demand that the Palestinians recognize Israel as a Jewish nation state?" Lieberman asked. "How will he demand that the Arab nations and the world recognized us, if he himself forewent the 'Nation-State Law' backed by (Ze'ev) Elkin, (Yariv) Levin and (Ayelet) Shaked?"

Lieberman continued attacking Netanyahu saying that "anyone who empties the equal sharing of the [national security] burden of meaning isn't from the right. Anyone who forgoes giving a death sentence to terrorists isn't from the right."

"I don't have a personal feud with Netanyahu," Lieberman clarified. "If the government guidelines are changed to include the "Nation-State Law," equal sharing of the [national security] burden, death penalty for terrorists, and building in Jerusalem's Jewish neighborhoods and settlement blocks – we will join."

"I heard a lot of complaints about the system," Lieberman commented on the process in which the coalition was formed. "It isn't the system, it's the hubris. I think that a person who belittles and patronizes his friends for years – I'm talking about the prime minster – can't expect that they won't pay him in kind when the time comes and he needs them. Gideon Sa'ar and Gilad Erdan should be asked how they feel. They aren't in the opposition or in Yisrael Beiteinu. Erdan, who ran from studio to studio, on the radio and the television, finds himself outside the government. That means a lot."