Moshe Ya'alon at the exit?
Moshe Ya'alon at the exit? Yonatan Sindel/Flash 90

According to Likud sources, outgoing Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon's request Monday from Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to promise him his post in the next coalition - a request Netanyahu avoided - indicates Ya'alon's rapid loss of standing in the party since Operation Protective Edge.

MKs, political advisers and other sources in the party told Yedioth Aharonoth on Tuesday that Ya'alon's inability to strike a critical blow on the Hamas terror group during the third such campaign may cost him politically, with party primaries set for early January.

"Whoever sees Ya'alon in government meetings each Sunday sees a different man," said the adviser of a Likud minister. "He isn't as he was. Something happened to him since Protective Edge, and it's visible."

A senior party source told the paper "the right in Likud has a problem with him. They expected him to get rid of obstructions and jams created by (his predecessor) Ehud Barak...and help to advance building (in Judea and Samaria), but he didn't do that."

Those comments relate to the fact that since Judea and Samaria are technically under military rule - Israel having never annexed the territories since liberating them in 1967 - the defense minister has a final say on new construction there. Residents had expressed hopes Ya'alon would spell an end to the effect construction freeze imposed by his left-wing predecessor, but were left sorely disappointed. As Netanyahu instituted a crushing building freeze Ya'alon conducted numerous demolitions, including on the home of a leading local activist, with one Likud source involved in the region telling the paper that voters in the region are not happy with his actions.

But the most damaging episode for Ya'alon was ultimately last summer during Israel's Operation Protective Edge.

"Also in the war they expected different results from him," continued the source. "There was a two-month war here against a terror organization, with a defense minister that was afraid to visit the area. That created deep disappointment, and it's likely they will settle scores with him."

"There's a chance that they will settle accounts with him in the primaries, and they (the regional population) count in a meaningful way. It could be that people with (MK Moshe) Feiglin will also settle accounts with him," said the source.

Ya'alon's actions during the war have already been the subject of severe criticism, after it was revealed he had initially opposed a proposal by Economics Minister Naftali Bennett to launch an operation to destroy Hamas's vast network of terror-tunnels. Eventually Bennett succeeded in persuading the security cabinet to approve the operation - an act which was later revealed to have foiled a planned massacre by Hamas.

"Ya'alon's chances are slim"

In Ya'alon's telephone request from Netanyahu on Monday, he asked if Netanyahu had promised his position to Jewish Home chairman Naftali Bennett as has been reported, to which Netanyahu said he hadn't. Ya'alon then asked if he would retain the position, to which Netanyahu said he couldn't make promises without knowing the results of elections.

"Netanyahu can't really commit to Bogie," Likud sources said using Ya'alon's nickname. "In the situation that has been created, it isn't even clear how many ministerial portfolios we'll be able to have after these elections."

According to a leading MK in the Likud who spoke with the paper, Ya'alon's chances of retaining his post are practically nonexistent.

"For the first time in a long time, it appeared as if Bogie suddenly stepped out of the Kirya (government buildings in Jerusalem - ed.)," said the unnamed MK. "but the chances that Bogie will be the defense minister in the next term are slim."

Explaining the assessment, the MK noted that "if the Likud will form the government it will be with (just) a number of mandates that will almost certainly require (us) to promise key portfolios to coalition partners."

However, a more central reason according to the MK is that "it isn't clear that (Ya'alon) will come out high enough in the primaries to get the senior portfolio."

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