Former Minister Moshe Ya'alon Vows Not to Enter Coalition Headed by Netanyahu

Moshe Ya'alon, who recently launched his own party over two years after leaving Likud, confirmed negotiations with former army chief of staff Benny Gantz on joint Knesset bid

File photo: Former defense minister Moshe Ya'alon speaks at an event in Jerusalem, December 27, 2018.
Olivier Fitoussi

Moshe Ya'alon, a former defense minister who recently launched his own political party ahead of Israel's April 9 election, vowed Saturday not to enter a coalition headed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. However, Ya'alon said he wouldn't boycott Netanyahu's Likud party, which Ya'alon quit in 2016.

In a political event in the northern city of Haifa, Ya'alon confirmed reports that he and former military chief of staff Benny Gantz, who also launched a new party, have been negotiating a joint Knesset list.

"We've been talking… in order to reach a mutual agenda," Ya'alon said. "What's being reported now is just the beginning. We're connected by the understanding that what's happening to us from the inside is a main threat to the State of Israel."

Ya'alon also discussed the Israeli military operation against Hezbollah's cross-border tunnels and claimed Operation Northern Shield's timing was a political one. "The most significant threat today comes to from Iran, Hezbollah, Hamas or ISIS," he said. "If we keep arguing about the Israeli-Palestinian issue and put other things aside, we're doomed."

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The former minister called for the nullification of Israel's nation-state law, approved in July in a Knesset vote with Netanyahu's backing. "This law has done terrible damage, and those responsible for it did it on purpose," Ya'alon said.

Referring to Habayit Hayehudi MK Bezalel Smotrich, he added: "A Knesset member says he doesn't want his wife giving birth next to an Arab woman. What would we say if anyone had said that about a Jew?"

Ya'alon resigned from the government and the Likud party more than two years ago over disagreements with Netanyahu. On Tuesday, a day after coalition heads announced their intention to dissolve the Knesset, Ya'alon declared that he was launching his own party.

He did not name the party, but in the announcement he made on Twitter Ya'alon proclaimed, "This is our time to take responsibility. The time has come for different leadership."

Since leaving the Likud party, Ya'alon has repeatedly said he was looking to team up with others. Yair Lapid, chairman of Yesh Atid party, proposed to him the second spot on the Yesh Atid list along with a commitment to joint leadership and several more spots on the list reserved for Ya'alon's people. Ya'alon declined the offer, preferring to head his own party.

Over the past several weeks, Ya'alon and Gantz have discussed running on a joint ticket in the upcoming election. Their discussions focused on setting up two separate parties, which would run as one unified list.

Ya'alon, a former IDF chief of staff, too, sees former underling Gantz as a potentially significant ally in a bid to establish a centralist, moderate party with an emphasis on security issues.

Gantz has also decided against joining existing parties, but hasn't ruled out teaming up with outsider political players, such as Ya'alon or the newly founded Gesher party, led by independent MK Orli Levi-Abekasis, who resigned former defense minister Avigdor Lieberman's Yisrael Beiteinu in May 2016.