The Man Who Will Bring Down Netanyahu

Ousted Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon will keep his word and return to face off against Netanyahu and his anti-Zionist road.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, left, and outgoing Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon at an army Hanukkah event in December.
Amos Ben Gershom / GPO

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu can start the countdown. The moment that Defense Minister Moshe “Bogie” Ya’alon leaned toward the microphone and announced his resignation was a pure Ya’alon moment. A little clumsy, a bit dry, unsophisticated – but clear as a bell and straight as an arrow. No charisma, except the charisma that is in decisiveness.

This is the moment that should signal the end of the Netanyahu era — the moment that Bogie brings down Bibi. We cannot know when. It must not be too long. There will be no better chance than this. There may be no other chance at all. The prime minister is behaving like a dictator who has lost touch with the laws of logic and reality and is sending out suicide orders from the bunker, surrounded by sorcerers and sycophants buffering him from the real world outside.

Netanyahu’s work as the acting editor in chief of the most widely distributed newspaper in the country has blinded him. A slave to family caprices and social media posts, troubled and panicked, spinning like a weathervane, focusing only on his own survival. He offered the Defense Ministry to a man he called a liar and a fraud, a man who only a month ago he described as lacking the skills even to be a military correspondent. These are the death throes. We need only make sure that they are not the death throes of all of us.

This is of course not a matter of left and right. Ya’alon is not a leftist and he never will be. He disparaged the left in the past. His world view is militaristic. At most he represents a historical remnant of an early incarnation of the Labor Party Ahdut minus Yigal Alon’s political creativity. And there is no need to praise his resignation so highly, as resounding as it was.

Ya’alon lost confidence in the prime minister and was stricken with anxiety over the future of the country only when a plot was hatched against him to have him dismissed. His agonizing over the demise of the historical Likud appears rather sudden; a few weeks ago he was still getting along just fine with Miri Regev. His acclaimed values mostly stop at the pre-1967 border. He is blind to the damage of the occupation and the settlements or at least to the depth of the damage. But in the limitations of time and place, his departure might be a tiebreaker. Ya’alon has picked sides. This should be a watershed.

The government of Netanyahu and the Israeli version of the Tea Party can be brought down only in cooperation with, and perhaps even led by, the statesmanlike right wing.

This is depressing, sometimes hard to digest, but this is precisely the price of Netanyahu’s government. Years of intimidation, incitement, ruination and diplomatic freeze have left their mark.

In any case, the natural opposition needs a period of recuperation and rehabilitation. The center-left has no future if it is led by empty and failed leaders like Yesh Atid’s Yair Lapid and Zionist Union’s Isaac Herzog. Lapid was a member of the previous Netanyahu-Bennett government, Herzog begged to join the current one. They both unceasingly and shamelessly verbally attack the Arabs and the imaginary “extreme left” and pander to nationalist and religionizing forces. This is not how you build an alternative. This is not really an opposition.

Ya’alon at least has honesty and integrity. For better or for worse, very flexible, he is not. When I left his office in the defense headquarters in Tel Aviv after one of the conversations I had with him in recent years, I wanted to bang my head against the wall. I didn’t, because I was afraid I’d be charged with destroying army property.

But Ya’alon also shows responsibility and leadership. Throughout his term he blocked, sometimes alone, military moves and adventures that could have mired Israel in blood. He was among those whose efforts ended the idea of an attack in Iran. He blocked rabble-rousing proposals to reoccupy the Gaza Strip.

Since the shooting to death in Hebron of a wounded Palestinian by a soldier he has given all-out backing to the struggle for education toward values by members of the General Staff and their subordinates; he has encouraged such education and has headed up the effort.

He will keep his word and return to face off against Netanyahu and his anti-Zionist road. This is a clear challenge: Responsibility versus recklessness, sanity versus insanity, democracy versus fascism. Nothing more, nothing less.