Netanyahu summons Ya'alon over comments

Vice premier calls Peace Now "a virus," lashes out at "elites"; Feiglin: Netanyahu overreacting.

Yaalon and Netanyahu 248.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Yaalon and Netanyahu 248.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu summoned Strategic Affairs Minister Moshe Ya'alon on Wednesday to an urgent meeting following a report that Ya'alon spoke at an event on Sunday organized by Netanyahu's fiercest critic in the Likud, Moshe Feiglin. Netanyahu will meet with Ya'alon Thursday night, immediately upon the prime minister's return from his family vacation. Sources close to Netanyahu said he was very upset with Ya'alon's criticism of US President Barack Obama and Ya'alon's visit to unauthorized West Bank outposts on Monday and he felt the matter had to be dealt with immediately. They said the prime minister was "annoyed" about a series of events indicating pressure from the Right ahead of his key meeting with Obama envoy George Mitchell next week in London. "I, for one, am not afraid of the Americans," Ya'alon said in the speech, which was reported by Channel 2's Amit Segal. "I believe that Jews have the right to live anywhere in the land of Israel forever." In the speech, Ya'alon also denounced the power of the press and other "elites" in Israel to make or break politicians and lashed out at the extreme Left. He also called Peace Now "a virus." Feiglin praised Ya'alon at the rally and committed to him the support of Feiglin's Manhigut Yehudit ideological forum in Likud, which has become increasingly powerful in the party's institutions. That support could aid Ya'alon in an eventual run to lead the party. Feiglin called Netanyahu's decision to summon Ya'alon "strange," and accused the prime minister of overreacting, just as he did when he used the Likud's legal institutions to prevent him from entering the Knesset. "Ninety percent of the public agrees with what Ya'alon said, and the fact that Netanyahu is trying to scare him after saying it proves that he is acting not on behalf of the public but on behalf of the elites that control him," Feiglin said. Netanyahu's office sent a beeper message to reporters announcing that he summoned Ya'alon 45 minutes after the Channel 2 report aired. A source close to Netanyahu said the prime minister "merely responded because the story was picking up steam." Ya'alon's spokesman declined to comment about the summons, but he downplayed the importance of the speech to Manhigut Yehudit. "He meets with Likud activists all over the country," the spokesman said. "He knew the speech was being taped. His views are clear, he wrote them in his book, and he stands by them." Peace Now responded by calling Ya'alon "paranoid" and "a danger to Israeli democracy." They advised him to "deal with the matters of his ministry, if there are any." Kadima released a statement saying that "Bogie [Ya'alon's nickname] was speaking for Netanyahu" and warning that the "Bibi-Bogie-Feiglin axis" harmed Israel's interests, especially the ability to achieve peace. Labor chairman Ehud Barak responded to Ya'alon that the views of the extreme Right were "irrelevant" while praising Peace Now as "an integral part of the discourse in Israeli society."