Israel Election: Ex-Defense Minister Ya'alon Breaks Up With Lapid, Builds Up His Party

Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis
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Moshe Ya’alon at a Knesset committee meeting, June 2020.
Moshe Ya’alon at a Knesset committee meeting, June 2020.Credit: Adina Valman / Knesset
Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis

Telem Chairman Moshe Ya’alon announced Sunday that he will be separating from Yesh Atid in the upcoming election, delivering a statement meant to increase his party’s bargaining power in creating a new alliance with an existing party.

“If you are loyal Israeli citizens, if you are Zionists who love the Israeli people and fear for the future of democracy and preserving the country’s Jewish identity, today I am here to tell you that there is a responsible adult, and there is a worthy party,” Ya’alon said in his announcement of the split, vowing that Telem would emphasize public health, education, transportation, the economy, welfare, and fighting corruption. 

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Ya’alon and Yesh Atid Chairman Yair Lapid split from Kahol Lavan after the last election, refusing to follow Kahol Lavan’s Defense Minister Benny Gantz and Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi into a government headed by Netanyahu.

Last month, in a presumed  attempt to draw votes from the right, Ya’alon said he and Lapid were expected to part ways. Lapid, for his part, sought a breakup with Telem because he reportedly believed the party was electorally weak and was disappointed at Ya’alon’s refusal to support him. On Saturday, Lapid wished Ya’alon good luck.

Science Minister Izhar Shay announced on Sunday he was leaveing Kahol Lavan to join Telem. 

Prof. Hagai Levine also announced he would be joining Ya'alon's party, and resigned as chairman of the Association of Public Health Physicians.

Levine tweeted: “I have joined Telem to be the change that I want to see in the world and with the goal of combining national leadership and protecting public and environmental health.”

Ya’alon wrote that Levine “maintains a professional backbone in light of the amateurish leadership of the coronavirus crisis, and embodies the integrity required of elected officials.” Ben-Yitzhak tweeted: “Many have called on me in recent months to run and so here I’ve jumped into the water and I expect to see you joining me on the journey.”

Gonen Ben-Itzhak, a leader of the protests against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, also announced he would be joining forces with Ya’alon and run in the election.

Ya'alon announced on Twitter two new party members: Karin Mayer Rubinstein, CEO and president of Israel Advanced Technology Industries, and Attorney Ayman Abu Raya, who is a suspect in an open bribery case. After media reports on Sunday on Abu Raya's alleged involvement in the case – which he denies – Ya'alon said he removed him from the party's list.

Ya’alon served as Israel Defense Forces chief of staff from 2002 to 2005, and was first elected to the Knesset in 2009, representing Likud. He was strategic affairs minister and defense minister in Netanyahu’s government and in 2016, he resigned from the government and subsequently left Likud after he became aware of Netanyahu’s intention to appoint Avigdor Lieberman to replace him as defense minister.

Ahead of the April 2019 election Ya’alon founded Telem, and later joined together with Gantz’s Israeli Resilience party and Yesh Atid to form Kahol Lavan.

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