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loose cannon

Netanyahu goes 'scorched earth,' criticizes Biden in speech ahead of ouster

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's 12-year run in power is about to end, and it looks like he's aiming to make life difficult for his replacement on the way out. 

Israel's parliament, or Knesset, on Sunday is holding a vote of confidence on a new coalition government headed by opposition leader Yair Lapid and Naftali Bennett, the leader of the right-wing Yamina party who will step into the prime minister role for two years before Lapid takes over if the vote passes as expected.

Before the vote, though, Netanyahu got a chance to address the Knesset. He did not hold back, reportedly claiming that Bennett, his former ally, defrauded voters and that his government will pass laws akin to authoritarian regimes like those in North Korea and Iran. "While I fight Iran, you bring Iran," Netanyahu said, referring to the enmity between the two countries and the threat of Tehran's nuclear capabilities. 

Perhaps more surprisingly, though, Netanyahu appeared to pick a fight with President Biden, criticizing his preference to return to the 2015 Iran nuclear pact that his predecessor, former President Donald Trump, abandoned in 2018. He said that Biden had asked him to keep their disagreements on the negotiations private, but he refused to do so. Additionally, Netanyahu said he rejected the Biden administration's demand that Israel freeze building settlements in the West Bank and reminded lawmakers that he is opposed to reopening a U.S. consulate in Jerusalem that served as a diplomatic mission to the Palestinian Authority.

In doing so, Netanyahu was trying to make the case that, unlike him, Bennett won't be able to say no to the U.S. The attempt to damage the U.S.-Israel relationship appears to be part of Netanyahu's desire to leave only "scorched earth" for the incoming government, a senior Israeli diplomat told Walla News' Barak Ravid.