Netanyahu: No Crisis of Confidence With Ya'alon, He Should Have Stayed on as FM

Meanwhile, politicians across the spectrum criticize the way the prime minister treated the defense minister.

Tomer Appelbaum

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Friday that Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon shouldn’t have resigned from the government and should have carried on as foreign minister.

 "I'm sorry about Bogie Ya'alon's decision," calling the defense minister by his nickname. "I think he should have carried on being a full partner in the country's leadership in the role of foreign minister," Netanyahu said.

"The change in the distribution of portfolios wasn’t caused by a crisis of confidence between us, the cause was the need to expand the government in order to bring stability to the State of Israel ahead of the great challenges it faces," Netanyahu said.

"I assume that had Bogie Ya'alon not been asked to leave the Defense Ministry and move to the Foreign Ministry, what he calls a crisis of confidence between us wouldn’t have developed and he wouldn’t have resigned."

The prime minister went on to address criticism on recent events surrounding public comments about the IDF.

"I wish to clarify: The IDF is a moral army. It keeps and will continue to keep the highest moral values – above all purity of arms. There isn’t and will be no dispute about that. The IDF is also the people's army, and I firmly believe that there's a need to carry on keeping the IDF out of politics. The attempt to bring the IDF and its commanders into a political dispute is wrong and dangerous to democracy. In a democracy the military establishment is subordinate to the political leadership – and not the other way round." 

Moving on to speak of his party, the prime minister said that "the Likud believes in democracy. The Likud is a national liberal movement, a movement that is committed to keeping Israel a Jewish and democratic state. The Likud represents the main bloc in the nation, and as such it is committed to the country's safety and to strive to peace."

""Israel strives for peace. There's an opportunity on the diplomatic front, especially because of certain developments in the region that I am tirelessly working on. That's why I made a great effort to add the Zionist Union to the government. And that's why I'm leaving the door open in a most serious manner for such joining, which will only do the State of Israel good," he said.

Meanwhile, other political figures also responded to the defense minister's resignation.

President Reuven Rivlin said that he was "greatly saddened by the resignation of Lt. Gen. (res.) Moshe Ya'alon."

"Against the background of recent events, the break from political life he is taking is understandable, and even appropriate, but at the same time represents a great loss to us all," Rivlin said.

Coalition chairman David Bitan (Likud) said that Ya'alon was designated to become foreign minister, and hoped that he would go back on his decision. Calling his resignation a "hasty step," Bitan added that "he was meant to become foreign minister and could have brought his many abilities and contribute to Israel from the Foreign Ministry. The expansion of the coalition is a natural interest and to consolidate it everyone must rise above personal interests."

Likud lawmaker Gila Gamliel, the minister of senior citizen affairs, said that "had the behavior toward him been different and not contemptuous, we would have saved us his resignation today." Gamliel added that "Minister Ya'alon's resignation is a great loss to the national camp in general and to the Likud Party in particular. For decades, already in his days as an officer and commander at Sayeret Matkal and later as chief of staff, Ya'alon contributed much to the country, and all of us, without exception, owe him a lot for it."

Habayit Hayehudi , whose leadership called Ya'alon a "walking security disaster" this week, welcomed the minister's decision. "Bogie Ya'alon is a man of values who made a conscientious decision that brings back the honor to Israeli politics. We thank him for his contribution to the State of Israel at all the junctions in his life, and are sure that he will return to public activity for the State of Israel."

Party lawmaker and Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked expressed her remorse regarding Ya'alon's decision, saying that "he is a man of values who contributed greatly to the State of Israel. His place should be at the government table." 

Interior Minister Arye Dery (Shas) said that Ya'alon "had filled the role of defense minister in recent years with great success, with integrity and with loyalty." Referring to Ya'alon as "a man of values who has contributed to Israel's security for decades," Dery called on him to go back on his decision and to continue serving in the government.

The opposition also responded to the defense minister's announcement. Zionist Union MK Amir Peretz, a former defense minister himself, said that "today Netanyahu made clear to the public that he isn’t the leader of the whole nation, but only of its extreme part. Bibi [Netanyahu] has managed to carry out a targeted killing against the State of Israel's defense minister after ambushing him time after time. It would have been enough had it been for national interests, but these are narrow political interests and ugly behavior."