Senior Habayit Hayehudi officials struck back at Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman Sunday morning over comments he made in recent days against the party's leader and in defense of U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry.
"Lieberman is zigzagging," the senior officials said, "We hope his zigzagging ride stops soon. Then we'll know if his opinions are closer to Michael Ben-Ari or Tzipi Livni," referring to leaders of the ultra-right-wing Otzma Leyisrael party and center-left Hatnauh party.
Lieberman said Friday that he supported Kerry’s efforts to move ahead on a framework document as a basis for continuing talks with the Palestinians, and took Habayit Hayehudi Chairman Naftali Bennett to task for assailing Kerry, saying that “the unity of the people is more important than the unity of the land.”
Lieberman’s remarks, made during a speech to the Commercial and Industrial Business Club at the Tel Aviv Hilton, continued the relatively moderate line he has been espousing since returning to the post of foreign minister last November.
A number of people in the audience asked Lieberman what caused him to change his positions. Lieberman responded that in recent years his positions have been distorted to paint him as an extremist. “I wrote as far back as 2004 that between unity of the territories and unity of the people, I prefer unity of the people.”
The Habayit Hayehudi officials said Sunday that Lieberman's choice to defend the American initiative was a result of the pressure he is under in light of "the electoral catastrophe that he faced in the last elections." According to these party members, Lieberman lost 70 percent of public support and he "is afraid of Naftali Bennett."
The officials added that Lieberman tried to wave the nationalistic flag to position himself as the leader of the right wing but did not succeed, that Likud would not accept him and that now he is trying to find his way "and outflank Tzipi Livni from the left."
"Lieberman is thoroughly enjoying being stroked by the Americans," the officials added, insisting that they would "continue standing for Israel's interests and will not get addicted to American stroking, because the security of Israeli residents is more important to us than American compliments."
Following the counterattack from Habayit Hayehudi, Lieberman stressed that what he objected to in Bennett's attacks on Kerry was that they were personal. "I was only addressing the personal attacks," he said. "This is unnecessary and has no place. We don't have to turn our friends into our enemies."
The foreign minister also pointed out that there is a "tremendous difference between my position and Bennett's. I would be ready to give up my home in the settlement of Nokdim, so long as I believed that a genuine final arrangement was at hand, an arrangement that guaranteed our security and national interests."