(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon received praise from across the political spectrum over the weekend following his announcement that he is resigning from the Knesset and taking a break from politics in response to his replacement by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman.
“Every Israeli citizen should be thankful for what he has done,” said Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid, adding that Ya’alon should be part of the nation’s leadership in the future.
Lapid’s comments fueled speculation that he could ask Lapid to be his No. 2 in Yesh Atid.
“What happened this week is a sellout of Israeli values,” said Lapid. “It is shameful and I am sure every Israeli citizen is ashamed for them. Our politicians on the Right and Left took what is most important in our lives – our security and our foreign relations – and said it did not matter and that they preferred political maneuvers.”
Former minister Gideon Sa’ar also raised eyebrows by praising Ya’alon.
Sa’ar, who will speak at Sunday’s Jerusalem Post Conference, could form a new political party with Ya’alon and others ahead of the next election.
“Ya’alon is an honest and courageous man,” Sa’ar said. “I am sure that he will still contribute much to the State of Israel. It takes a man of principle to make courageous decisions rather than remain in their cabinet seat at any price.”
Transportation Minister Israel Katz said he met with Netanyahu last week and advised him to appoint Ya’alon as foreign minister in order to strengthen the government and maintain the unity of the Likud. Katz said that when he landed in New York to speak at the Jerusalem Post Conference, he was disappointed to hear about Ya’alon’s decision to quit. He said he hoped Ya’alon could still be convinced otherwise.
Zionist Union leader Isaac Herzog said Israel requires a government that is led by responsible people, and accused Netanyahu of shifting sharply rightward.
“Netanyahu has made himself into a cabinet secretary of the extreme Right, of Avigdor Naftali Smotrich (a combination of Liberman, Education Minister Naftali Bennett and Bayit Yehudi MK Bezalel Smotrich).
Zionist Union MK Erel Margalit called Ya’alon “a brave man who exposed the moral nakedness of Netanyahu to the world. It’s time to ignite the streets and bring elections now,” he added.
Zionist Union faction chairwoman Merav Michaeli called Ya’alon’s departure “another ‘X’ in Netanyahu’s belt,” saying, “We lost a balanced and sane voice in the crazy dangerous right-wing government that Netanyahu leads.”
Manuel Trajtenberg of the Zionist Union went so far as to say: “The Netanyahu era is coming to an end as central forces from his party are expressing extreme lack of confidence in his leadership,” and he called upon Ya’alon and Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon (Kulanu) to form a new political platform to defeat Netanyahu.
In stark contrast to the general praise Ya’alon received among his peers, Likud MK Oren Hazan welcomed news of the defense minister’s resignation.
“Over the past several years, I have repeatedly demanded that the premier replace Ya’alon from the Defense Ministry due to his weak security policies, repeated mistakes and dangerous conduct,” Hazan said. “I regret Ya’alon does not understand the nature of politics, that you don’t always win.
Politics requires nerves of steel along with composure and patience. Those who do not understand this might discover it the hard way.”Hannah Broad contributed to this report.