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September 11, 2019 4:18 pm

Israeli Politicians Express Concern Over Implications of Bolton Departure for US Iran Policy

avatar by Benjamin Kerstein

US National Security Adviser John Bolton shakes hands with Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu at a meeting in Jerusalem, Aug. 20, 2018. Photo: Sebastian Scheiner / Pool via Reuters.

Several prominent Israeli politicians weighed in on Wednesday on the ouster of US President Donald Trump’s national security adviser, John Bolton, expressing concern and trepidation about a possible shift in American policy toward Iran.

Bolton was known for his hawkish views on Iran and his staunch support for Israel.

Speaking to i24 News, former Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, now one of the leaders of the centrist Blue and White party, said, “Unfortunately, recently there is a distinction between the Israeli policy and the American one” on Iran.

“It has been demonstrated by the fact that John Bolton was fired,” he asserted, “That’s a victory for Iran.”

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Ya’alon also called the move “a signal of weakness” on Trump’s part.

Bolton’s departures, in Ya’alon’s view is as part of a pattern. “Looking to what has happened over the last couple of months, on one hand Trump was very tough, imposing crippling sanctions, very important declarations, but then ignoring the fact that the Iranians intercepted an American UAV — it was a signal of weakness,” he said.

The Iranians, according to Ya’alon, “understand that Trump doesn’t want to go all the way to confront them. He’s now on the way to engage them. That’s why he fired John Bolton.”

“That’s bad news for, I believe, Israel,” he added. “That’s bad news for what I believe should have been the American policy.”

Ex-Education Minister Naftali Bennett, now one of the leaders of the right-wing Yamina party, expressed similar concerns at a conference co-hosted by Israeli dailies Maariv and The Jerusalem Post.

“We should be very worried,” Bennett said. “Trump is obviously a big friend of Israel, but at the end of the day our interests are not identical, he has his interests, we have our interests.”

Speaking of the cooperation between Trump and Israel on Iran policy, Bennett said, “The whole idea was to create pressure, which worked. We applied kinetic pressure by pushing away the entrenchment of Iran in Syria and other places, and [the US] brought about pressure through sanctions. If we relax [the pressure] it will be very bad.”

“With Iran,” he added, “the situation is not far from lost but I am very, very troubled.”

Yisrael Beiteinu party head and former Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman, who may prove to be the kingmaker following next week’s Knesset elections, voiced similar sentiments, but also strongly criticized Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

“Netanyahu’s greatest strategic asset was supposedly his coordination with the US on the Iranian issue,” Lieberman said. “His campaign propaganda is based on pictures of him with Trump.”

“The removal of Bolton from the White House as national security adviser means only this: the end of all the coordination from a basic perspective between Netanyahu and the White House on the Iranian nuclear program,” he declared.

“For the State of Israel it is a very great problem,” Lieberman added. “It places before us complex challenges.”

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