Published On: Sun, May 22nd, 2016

Ya’alon leaves Defense Ministry: Netanyahu abandoned me

In interview he gave last week, the outgoing defense minister levels harsh accusations at the PM: 'he changed his mind after seeing public mood on Hebron shooting affair, ' and at his replacement Lieberman: 'he ran a smear campaign against me.'

Outgoing defense minister Ya'alon (Photo Motti Kimchi)

Moshe Ya’alon will leave the Defense Ministry on Sunday, but unlike previous reshuffles, the new minister will not be present at the farewell ceremonies, nor will Ya’alon brief the incoming minister.

Ya’alon’s resignation from the post of defense minister will coming into effect immediately upon his departure from the Kirya IDF Headquarters in Tel Aviv. At 9am, Ya’alon will attend a farewell event from the Defense Ministry, and at 4:30pm, he will say goodbye to the General Staff.

On Saturday night, the outgoing minister met with Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein and signed his official letter of resignation from the parliament.

On Tuesday night, before his resignation, Ya’alon spoke to Likudnik, a website affiliated with the ruling party, and leveled some harsh accusations against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and against the incoming defense minister, Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Lieberman.

“When the Hebron shooting affair first happened, Netanyahu agreed with me that we needed to let the military prosecution investigate and handle this, ” Ya’alon told the website. “And then, when he noticed the public mood, he changed his mind. As a minister, I had to back the IDF chief, but I felt like Netanyahu had abandoned me.”

When asked why he was quick to call Sgt. Elor Azaria, who shot dead an already-neutralized terrorist in Hebron, the “transgressing soldier, ” Ya’alon noted: “He simply took the law into his own hands. He opened fire without justification.”

Ya’alon’s letter of resignation from the Knesset.

Outgoing defense minister. Ya'alon's  letter of resignation from the Knesset.

 

Ya’alon also came head to head with Lieberman and Education Minister Naftali Bennett in the Hebron shooting affair. “They ran a smear campaign against me throughout the entire time, ” he accused. “Lieberman was involved both personally and indirectly when (former Yisrael Beytenu MK) Sharon Gal, who is Lieberman’s man, became the (Azaria) family’s PR guy. I felt like Netanyahu had abandoned both the IDF chief and myself when Gal put him through on the phone to talk to the family. I have principles. Not everything is politics.”

Ya’alon also responded to accusations from the far right that during his term in office, he foiled settlement in the West Bank. “I couldn’t let them take over the structures in Hebron, ” he said. “There’s illegal conduct in this story. As a defense minister, I approved construction where we could approve it. I didn’t approve construction in places that were illegal.”

The Knesset will open its summer session on Monday with last week’s political drama still lingering: The failure of coalition negotiations with the Zionist Union and the harsh criticism against chairman Isaac Herzog, Yisrael Beytenu joining the government, and mostly Ya’alon’s resignation are all issues that will be clouding over the plenum for a long time to come.

Yisrael Beytenu has yet to officially sign the agreement to join the government due to budgetary issues over the party’s demand to complete the pension reform and the demand to amend the law to allow sentencing convicted terrorists to death.

On Friday, Lieberman and Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon held their first meeting on the pension reform. At first, Lieberman sought to secure pensions only for immigrants from the former Soviet Union, but it was eventually decided to apply the planned reform on all immigrants and other Israelis who did not work enough years to accumulate sufficient pension funds.

The cost of the reform stands at about NIS 3 billion, a sum that could only be allocated if it is done gradually over the period of a few years.

Lieberman and Kahlon agreed to meet again at the beginning of the week to finalize the details.

Meanwhile, there is also an effort to formulate draft legislation on death sentence to terrorists, Yisrael Beytenu’s flagship legislation, which would withstand the High Court’s judgment. Likud Minister Yariv Levin has been entrusted with the negotiations on the matter, and has been working along with Lieberman to reach an agreement.

One of the options is to amend the legislation that allows the military court to hand out capital punishment to terrorist if a unanimous decision is made by three judges, and change it so only two judges suffice.

Here, too, the sides have yet to reach a final agreement and it is possible the two sides will commit to working on the legislation during the upcoming Knesset session.

Ynet and Yedioth reporters

Yuval Karni, Moran Azulay, Yoav Zitun and Kobi Nachshoni contributed to this story

 

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