Netanyahu summons Ya’alon over support for IDF free speech

Following Ya’alon’s speech, the defense minister was reportedly summoned to an urgent meeting with Netanyahu on Monday.

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, right, confers with Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon. (photo credit: HAIM ZACH/GPO)
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, right, confers with Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon.
(photo credit: HAIM ZACH/GPO)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu late Sunday summoned Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon to an urgent meeting for supporting the right of a senior officer to liken the atmosphere in Israel with that of Germany in the 1930s.
Earlier Sunday, Ya’alon said IDF commanders should continue to speak their minds on issues of morality and ethics, in an apparent reference to the controversy that followed the Holocaust Remembrance Day comments of Deputy Chief of Staff Maj.-Gen. Yair Golan.
“This evening, I call on you and your subordinates, once again, to keep speaking your minds. Do so even if your comments are not part of the mainstream, and even if they stand in contrast with the ideas adopted by senior command or the government,” Ya’alon said at an event attended by foreign military attaches at the Defense Ministry.
Earlier this month, stirred an uproar after saying he was concerned by some of the extremist voices within Israeli society, likening it to the atmosphere in 1930s Germany, before Hitler came to power.
The IDF later issued a clarification saying Golan did not mean to compare extremism in society in Israel to 1930s Germany.
“Do not fear, do not hesitate. Continue to be brave, not only on the battlefield, but also at the conference table,” Ya’alon said on Sunday.
“A good military is one in which commanders, junior and senior, feel secure in their ability to speak their mind at any time, knowing they will not be harmed,” he added.
Netanyahu gives his full support to the IDF, including its commanders and soldiers, his office said in a statement Sunday evening.
Netanyahu remains firm in his conviction that the comparison that was made to Nazi Germany was inappropriate and damaged Israel in the international arena, the Prime Minister’s Office said, but added that army officers were free to express their opinions in relevant forums on topics that fall within their purview.
The IDF is the army of the people and it must remain outside of politics, the PMO said.
Earlier in his speech Sunday, Ya’alon stressed the importance of the military’s values, saying ethics form a central issue for commanders of all ranks, “and certainly for me, as defense minister.”
Purity of arms, and the ability of the IDF to investigate itself and admit to mistakes, are at the top of the list in safeguarding a quality and healthy military, he said, adding that such values are more important than sophisticated weapons and precise intelligence.
Israel’s society must sanctify life, and fight against racism, violence, and hateful, divisive rhetoric, Ya’alon said, issuing a warning over a “an extremist minority that operates on the ground and in social media.
“Part of it has snuck into the mainstream of society, in disguise, and it is trying to influence the image and values of the IDF. This is a unique, significant struggle, perhaps the most important one in many years. Not only for the image of the IDF, but also for the image of Israeli society.”
Ya’alon said he had no intention of compromising over such values, though he admitted to “losing sleep” over the issue.
Tovah Lazaroff contributed to this report.