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A Change in Leadership

Moshe Ya'alon and PM Netanyahu (Photo: ASHERNET)

Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has offered opposition leader Avigdor Lieberman the defense ministry portfolio in exchange for bringing his party, which has six parliamentary seats, into Netanyahu’s coalition. This would make current Defense Minister, Moshe Ya’alon, Foreign Minister.  

The prime minister seeks to attain a larger and stronger coalition with the deal. But many are saying that replacing the current defense minister only sweetens the deal for Netanyahu.

Netanyahu and Ya’alon have had major public disagreements. Most recently, they have engaged in a war of words over the controversial, insulting remarks made by IDF Deputy Chief Yair Golan on Holocaust Remembrance Day, when Golan compared some attitudes in present-day Israel to “nauseating trends” in 1930’s Germany.

As controversy about Golan’s remarks made headlines in Israel, the deputy chief explained that he did not intend to compare Israel to Nazi Germany, and only intended to provoke the Israeli public to reflect deeply on how to maintain the moral high ground while fighting a constant war.

Netanyahu strongly denounced the comments, which were deemed grossly inaccurate and inappropriate, especially for an Army General addressing the Israeli people on Holocaust Remembrance Day. But Defense Minister Ya’alon openly backed the general’s right to express his criticism in public and encouraged other officers to do the same. This – understandably – infuriated the prime minister, who hoped he would have the final word on the matter, and would put an end to a controversy the nation does not need.  

At a time when Israel’s detractors are creating false narratives that paint Israel as the aggressor in the Arab-Israeli conflict, it is inconceivable that an IDF military chief would issue such harsh and unfounded criticism of any sector of our population. The deputy chief’s comparison of certain aspects of Israeli society to the trends present in prewar Nazi Germany not only lends legitimacy to those who falsely claim Israel is a human rights abuser, it is entirely detached from historical reality. Yet, instead of repudiating Golan’s venomous speech, Ya’alon applauded him for speaking his mind.

The deputy’s views represent a very small fraction of Israeli society and are far from the mainstream. It is possible then, that Ya’alon’s endorsement of such talk by army officials started the countdown to the end of his term as defense minister.

- Ami Farkas

Tags: Israel

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