Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon appeared on all three major Israeli television networks on Friday evening to counter criticism from hawkish members of the cabinet who repeatedly second-guessed him and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu for declining to topple Hamas in the Gaza Strip during Operation Protective Edge.
Though he never mentioned them by name, the defense minister criticized Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman and Economy Minister Naftali Bennett for their vocal opposition to what they perceived as a weak military response to Hamas’s rocket fire.
“We had ministers supporting things in the room, and then they went to the media and expressed opposition to it,” Ya’alon told the television stations on Friday. “This is irresponsible.”
“During war, there is no room for politics,” the defense minister said. “That needs to be put to the side. You can’t say one thing in the cabinet meeting and then go out to the media and say something completely different.”
“We had a situation where these ministers were leading the public by its nose, riling them up, and creating the sense that it there is weak leadership at the helm,” Ya’alon said. “It’s irresponsible.
“Even if you voted against a decision, you can’t go to the press and attack us, because there’s a collective responsibility,” he said. “I hope that with experience and age, the ministers will wise up.”
Hamas used the dissent senior ministers expressed publicly for propaganda purposes, Ya’alon said.
“We have Hamas quoting cabinet ministers and other ministers who say we didn’t achieve what we wanted,” he said. “The government, the military and the prime minister – all of us were coordinated among us, so it’s unfortunate that some people chose to play politics.”
Ya’alon said that Israel “achieved what it wanted to achieve” in the 50-day military campaign.
Liberman, who appeared on Channel 1, rejected Ya’alon’s criticism.
“I was consistent from the beginning of the operation to the end,” the foreign minister said. “The position I presented in the cabinet was the same in public.”
Liberman, who repeated his stance that “it was possible to finish the job” and “expel the Hamas leadership from Gaza,” told Channel 1 that he consulted with defense experts who backed his position.
“It was possible to expel Hamas,” he said. “I trust the IDF. But we were closer than ever to toppling Hamas in Gaza.
“I consulted with the best experts, because I’m not a military expert,” Liberman said. “I expected to see alternatives to the plans that were adopted, but I just saw one option.”
The foreign minister said that while he agrees with Ya’alon and Netanyahu that “Hamas was hit hard,” Israel “needed to finish the job.”