Jerusalem Affairs and Environmental Protection Minister Zeev Elkin (Likud) said Monday morning that he regretted the departure of former Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon from the party, but added that Yaalon was responsible for his falling out with the Likud.
Speaking to Israel Radio, Elkin argued that had Yaalon accepted the Prime Minister’s offer to step down as Defense Minister and accept the Foreign Ministry portfolio, he would have significantly strengthened his position within the Likud.
Elkin also discussed the future of Yaalon’s political career, with recent polls showing a party led by the former Defense Minister wining just four to six mandates. Given the relative weakness of his new political venture, said Elkin, Yaalon will struggle just to pass the 3.25% minimum electoral threshold.
Yaalon, who served as IDF Chief of Staff from 2002 to 2005, joined the Likud in 2008, winning a seat in the 18th Knesset in 2009. Yaalon served as Defense Minister beginning in 2013, but was forced to resign in May, 2016 following a coalition agreement between Prime Minister Netanyahu and Yisrael Beytenu chief Avigdor Liberman, who had demanded the Defense Ministry in exchange for his party’s entry into the government.
Most Israelis believe Netanyahu would not allow Yaalon to continue as Defense Minister after he condemned Elor Azariya, the soldier later convicted of killing a wounded terrorist in Hevron, before the investigation of the event. He also did not reprimand his deputy for saying that some Israeli behavior is similar to that of the Nazis in a speech, an incident which Netanyahu could not allow to pass silently.
While the Prime Minister had offered Yaalon the Foreign Ministry, Yaalon turned down the offer and resigned from the Knesset shortly thereafter.