"Only in politics can I be involved in making key decisions for the country," says former IDF chief.
By GIL STERN STERN HOFFMAN
Former IDF chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Moshe Ya'alon made his long awaited decision about his political future on Monday evening when he told Likud chairman Binyamin Netanyahu that he would run for the Knesset with his party.
Ya'alon had been contemplating for weeks whether to enter politics or remain in his current position as a senior distinguished fellow at the Shalem Center's Adelson Institute for Strategic Studies in Jerusalem.
But he said he could no longer remain on the sidelines during such a critical time for Israel.
"Only in politics can I be involved in making key decisions for the country and have real influence and responsibility," Ya'alon told The Jerusalem Post when asked why he made his decision. "The current way is not working and it must be changed."
Ya'alon denied a report that he insisted on receiving the Defense portfolio in a prospective Likud-led government. Sources close to Netanyahu denied reports that Ya'alon had asked for a reserved slot on the Likud's Knesset list.
Netanyahu and Ya'alon had been meeting regularly once a week to discuss politics since the February 10 election was declared last month. Before that, they had met regularly to discuss strategic issues.
It looked like Ya'alon might not be entering politics when the Shalem Center announced that he would host an international conference on global counter-terrorism on the same day as the December 8 Likud primary, but Ya'alon said on Monday morning that the coincidence would not impact his decision about whether to run.
Shalem Center officials revealed that they had been expecting Ya'alon's departure for weeks. Despite speculation, former minister Natan Sharansky will remain at the center and not return to politics.
The Likud was not the only party that tried to draft Ya'alon. MKs in the new party being formed out of the National Union-National Religious Party said they wanted Ya'alon to head their list.
"We regret his decision but we are not surprised, and we knew we never really had a chance," an official at the new party said.
Sources close to Netanyahu said that Ya'alon did not decide between different parties but between the Likud and remaining outside of politics. Former IDF deputy chief of General Staff Uzi Dayan, who is also running for Knesset with the Likud, welcomed him.
"This proves that the Likud is bringing together an experienced and balanced leadership that appeals to centrist Israelis," Dayan said.
Kadima officials blasted Ya'alon for joining Likud. Faction chairman Yoel Hasson said that Kadima "did not need decorations because we have real leadership."
"Many of the failures of the Second Lebanon War were Ya'alon's fault," a Kadima official said. "The Likud deserves him, and he deserves to deal with all the nobodies in the Likud."
Ya'alon served as the 17th IDF chief of General Staff from July 2002 to June 2005, during which time he led the army's successful effort to quell the Palestinian terror war launched in September 2000.
Born in 1950 in Kiryat Haim, Ya'alon was drafted into the IDF in 1968.
In 1986, he left to pursue advanced studies at the command and staff college in Camberly, England. When he returned to Israel, he held various senior positions in the IDF until he was appointed deputy chief of staff in September 2000 and chief of staff two years later.
He recently published a book called The Long Short Road in which he recommended building up the grassroots in the Palestinian Authority with a bottom-top approach to peacemaking, instead of the current top-bottom approach. In the book, he criticized former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon for the disengagement and the leadership that ran the Second Lebanon War.
David Horovitz contributed to this report
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