Shalom, not Ya'alon, to replace Netanyahu while he's on European trip this week

Officials: Decision has nothing to do with controversy over Ya'alon's calling Peace Now "a virus."

yaalon with flag sombre 248 88 aj (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
yaalon with flag sombre 248 88 aj
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
When Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu leaves for Europe on Monday, he will be replaced by Vice Premier Silvan Shalom and not Vice Premier Moshe Ya'alon, officials in the Prime Minister's Office said on Sunday. The officials said the decision had nothing to do with the controversy over Ya'alon's remarks last week about not being afraid of the Americans and calling Peace Now "a virus." Shalom and Ya'alon have alternated in the role of acting prime minister in Netanyahu's three trips abroad since taking office in April. Shalom took the largely symbolic role when Netanyahu went to the United States in May and Ya'alon when Netanyahu went to France and Italy. But it is not certain that the pattern will continue with Netanyahu's next trip abroad, which is expected to be to attend the UN General Assembly in September, where US President Barack Obama may announce a new framework for advancing Middle East peace. Political sources said it is possible that for such a sensitive trip, the prime minister will choose the more moderate Shalom over Ya'alon. Officials close to the prime minister were quoted over the weekend saying that Netanyahu regretted advancing the former IDF chief at Shalom's expense. Ya'alon is one of six members of the inner cabinet that makes key decisions, while Shalom's request to be included in the panel was turned down. Shalom has made a point of not criticizing Netanyahu publicly since the decision to appoint him Negev and Galilee Development minister and not to a more senior position. He has not granted an interview in more than four months. "He has established a good working relationship with Netanyahu," a Shalom associate said. National Infrastructures Minister Uzi Landau praised Ya'alon outside Sunday's cabinet meeting. "What Ya'alon said is correct," Landau said. "Just like Israel was maligned by the Swedish incident, Ya'alon has been publicly disparaged. He has a right to express his opinion without being maligned by Peace Now, the elites and the press." Labor MK Ophir Paz-Pines criticized Netanyahu for not firing Ya'alon, or at least removing him from the inner cabinet. "Ya'alon is not fit for any top position in the cabinet and if Bibi doesn't think so, it's problematic, because it means the prime minister accepts his ideology," Paz-Pines said. "That indicates a problem with Netanyahu, not Ya'alon."