Likud activists have started sending the party's WhatsApp group photos accompanied by text calling for the political elimination of Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, following his criticism of the soldier who shot to death an immobilized terrorist in Hebron two weeks ago.
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The photos show Ya’alon at the center of a target, under which is written “politically eliminated!” The text further states that the defense minister had harsh words for supporters of the soldier, and that the Likud Central Committee would respond by "assassinating" Ya’alon in the next primaries.
Ya’alon’s office has handed over the photos to the Shin Bet security service for investigation. The assessment is that since these are open WhatsApp groups it won’t be difficult to trace the source of these photos.
The defense minister is so far the only right-wing politician who has spoken out bluntly against the soldier’s conduct and against the political and public campaign that is exalting his image.
In contrast, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Education Minister Naftali Bennett have called the soldier’s family to encourage them, and Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked has criticized the public pre-judgement that is taking place. MKs Avigdor Lieberman and Oren Hazan have shown up at the military court to show support for the detained soldier.
“What happened in Hebron was a grave incident,” Ya’alon said last week at the Knesset. “This is a case of a soldier who committed a loathsome act, not a hero All this inflammatory talk and release of fallacious information, as well as the manipulations and attacks on the Chief-of-Staff What do you want, an army that’s become dehumanized and lost its moral fiber?”
Sources close to Ya’alon estimated that the campaign against him originated from extreme wings of the party and that he actually enjoys significant support from Likud members. “Threats won’t deter him. He’s fighting for the future of this country and the character of Israeli society, and campaigns waged by marginal Likud elements or public opinion polls won’t discourage him,” said a close associate of Ya’alon, adding that “he doesn’t take such things into consideration and acts according to his path and beliefs. There are many Likud and public figures who have expressed their support. These people aren’t swayed by all this inflammatory talk.”
Ya’alon warned last week about a surging inflammatory wave directed at the defense establishment following the soldier’s arrest. “I’m concerned about public sentiment and the lashing out at the army. This is an unprecedented incendiary wave. I suggest that rules regarding the use of live fire be determined by the chief of staff, and not by gang leaders,” said Ya’alon.
This is not the first time that Ya’alon is in confrontation with the hawkish wing of his party in relation to his role as defense minister. During the primaries, activists from the settlements waged an unsuccessful campaign against him, following his policy toward unlawful outposts.