Likud MKs give Ya'alon cold shoulder

Former IDF chief of General Staff tells press, "looking at Israel's challenges today, I couldn't stand aside."

Yaalon bibi 248.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Yaalon bibi 248.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
The Likud's political acquisitions ahead of its December 8 primary and the February 10 general election concluded on Tuesday when former IDF chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Moshe Ya'alon formally announced that he would seek a Knesset seat with the party. Ya'alon accompanied Likud chairman Binyamin Netanyahu into the press conference room on the 14th floor of the party's Tel Aviv headquarters wearing a green shirt, reminiscent of the uniform he wore for so many years in the IDF. His entering politics so close to the primary evoked criticism from Likud MKs, whose goal of returning to the Knesset posed more of a challenge as the field of Knesset candidates became even more crowded than before. One Likud MK even compared Ya'alon to much-maligned former Labor MK Ami Ayalon, who left Labor in anger on Sunday a year after failing to win its leadership. The MK said that the former general's hesitancy "could make him the Likud's version of Ayalon." Sources close to Netanyahu revealed that it was not Ya'alon who had delayed his entry into the party, but the Likud leader and his strategists, who decided to space Ya'alon's joining and the return of former Likud ministers Bennie Begin and Dan Meridor to maximize the positive atmosphere and good press. "My heart said no, my head said yes, and my head won," Ya'alon said when describing his decision to enter politics. "I know entering politics will make me pay a heavy price and be hard for my family, but with the challenges Israel is facing, I couldn't stand on the sidelines." Ya'alon and Netanyahu said that in regular meetings between the two over the last two years, they had realized they agreed on key issues. Netanyahu even said he could have written Ya'alon's recent book, The Long Short Road, and that it reminded him of what he had written 12 years ago. "The path of withdrawals did not improve Israel's security, and it must change," Ya'alon said, sounding like a true Likudnik. "The policy of withdrawals just distanced peace." Netanyahu denied reports that Ya'alon had asked for assurances that he would be appointed defense minister in a prospective Likud-led government. He also refuted claims that Ya'alon had asked for a reserved slot on the party's list. "I am not giving out portfolios," Netanyahu said. "Can he contribute on security issues? Yes. Can he contribute on other issues? Yes. But he didn't ask for a reserved slot or a place around the cabinet table." Still, Netanyahu did hint that Ya'alon could end up returning to the Defense Ministry, as he compared Ya'alon to Bank of Israel Governor Stanley Fischer - whom he hired - and said he always brought in the best possible people for the job. "We need the best leaders to serve the public," Netanyahu said. "We are lucky to add to our team the former chief of General Staff, who for me is the No. 1 soldier in Israel." A Kadima spokesman responded that Ya'alon would "push Netanyahu rightward and prove that the Likud of Bibi-Begin-Boogie would lead Israel to a path with no hope."