Former Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Moshe Ya'alon took the reins of Israel's defense ministry on Tuesday in an official ceremony at the government compound in Tel Aviv, replacing outgoing Defense Minister Ehud Barak, who spent six years in the position.
The official government ceremony welcomed Ya'alon and bid farewell to Barak with an honor guard of Israel's Defense Forces soldiers from the Israel Air Force, the Israel Navy, the ground forces, and the military police.
Following the ceremony, Ya’alon and Barak went up to the 14th floor of the Defense Ministry building, to raise a toast together, along with IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz, officers of the IDF General Staff, and department heads of the Defense Ministry.
“I am humbled this morning because I know what a heavy burden this is,” Ya’alon told those present at the ceremony. “I remember the day I ended my term as IDF chief of staff [in 2005], and the relief that I felt. This morning, the heavy burden is back on my shoulders, and so I truly understand the importance of the task.”
“It’s true that newspapers mostly like to report conflict," Ya'alon told his predecessor during their toast. "Otherwise, it wouldn't be interesting. But our meetings over the past four years have been truly important and productive, and I think you can take pride in your accomplishments of the past four years and the past six years.”
Barak congratulated Ya’alon in turn: “Bogie is a person who always knows where he is, in uniform or out. He’s stable, unwavering, says what he thinks and does what he says,” Barak said, referring to the new defense minister by his nickname.
The former defense minister also referred to the disagreements he had with Ya'alon, who served as strategic affairs minister and vice premier in the last government, over the past four years, but said he knew his successor was receiving from him “a system that is in good, loyal, professional hands that understand where we live and where we’re headed.”
Barak also hinted at some of the challenges the incoming defense minister might be facing, particularly regarding the expected budget cutbacks in the defense establishment. “You must fight for what you must fight for, and make decisions when the political echelon makes them, and you need to move to the other side of the table and do the work," Barak said.
Ya’alon, for his part, said he looked forward to a future of peace and security: “I give all of us the blessing that together, we do this important work and together bring about security, calm and, in the future, perhaps even peace alongside the power of the State of Israel.”
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