Ya'alon Takes on Coalition Chair: 'Political Attempts to Destroy Defense Establishment Are Shameful'

Coalition chairman David Bitan says 'something happens' to those who head Mossad and Shin Bet that 'makes them left-wing.'

Moshe Ya'alon at the annual Herzliya Conference, June 16, 2016.
Moti Milrod

Coalition chairman David Bitan said on Saturday that "there is something that happens" to the people who become the heads of the Mossad espionage service and the Shin Bet domestic security agency. "Something makes them left-wing."

Suggesting that they undergo a transformation when they leave office, he told a Be'er Sheva audience: "When they were in office, they praised the prime minister. If they didn't agree with him, they wouldn't have had to express praise."

From the ranks of the Knesset opposition, the Zionist Union's Tzipi Livni tweeted in response: "What is happening to the defense establishment heads in office? It's called responsibility. Coming into contact with a complex reality and a duty to provide a genuine response, not populist slogans [that attract votes]."

Bitan also attacked Moshe Ya'alon, who stepped down as defense minister last month. "Ya'alon was fine as defense minister, but his main problem is that he was a 'super-chief of staff'," meaning that Ya'alon, who in fact previously was IDF chief of staff, was functioning as chief of staff in addition to the actual chief of staff. "We don't need a defense minister who does only what the army says. We need a defense minister who thinks beyond these things and won't be a 'super-chief of staff' but rather something else." And Bitan continued: "We offered him the foreign ministry portfolio, which is no less important, and he didn't want it."

Bitan also denied that Ya'alon resigned over the case of Lior Azaria, the soldier who is facing manslaughter charges for shooting a terrorist in Hebron in the head after, from what appears on film footage, the terrorist seemed to have already been subdued on the ground.

Olivier Fitoussi

For his part, Ya'alon responded  as follows to Bitan on Twitter: "The dangerous political attempts to destroy the defense establishment and to incite against those who head it are continuing systematically. [It's] shameful and disturbing. We will pay a very heavy price for it."

Bitan in turn responded to Ya'alon: "With all due respect to Ya'alon, the defense establishment is not him, and he is not the defense establishment. He is a politician who made cold political calculations and left Likud and the cabinet for a warm hug from the left. He shouldn't scare [people] with statements [about] a danger to democracy and harm to the defense establishment because that's not the situation. Our defense establishment is also good and strong now and not only during his term in office."