Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon (L) with Netanyahu (R)
Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon (L) with Netanyahu (R) Yonatan Sindel/Flash90

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon (Likud) issued a joint statement on Monday, three hours after a meeting in which Netanyahu summoned Ya'alon to clarify his recent controversial statements.

"Prime Minister Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ya'alon met this morning and clarified the statements between them," read the joint statement.

"There is no undermining, and there was no such undermining, of the fact that the army is subordinate to the political echelon, and the officers are free to express their opinion in the appropriate forums."

The meeting at Netanyahu's official residence in Jerusalem and the showdown between the two centers on controversial statements by IDF Deputy Chief of Staff Maj. Gen. Yair Golan, who compared Israel and Nazi Germany at a Holocaust Remembrance Day ceremony.

On the background of those comments, Ya'alon on Sunday told senior IDF brass to voice their opinions even if they contradict the government, saying, "keep saying what is on your mind. Do this even if it’s against the mainstream, and even if it goes against the ideas and positions of senior commanders or the political leadership."

"This is my request of you, senior IDF commanders, and that should be your demand of your subordinates as well: Continue to operate according to your human conscience," added Ya'alon.

Netanyahu's office fired back that "IDF commanders express their opinions freely in the relevant forums on issues under their responsibility. The IDF is the people's army and must be kept out of political debates."

The Prime Minister then summoned Ya'alon for the talk, as leftist and right-wing MKs largely split their support for the two.

Sunday’s incident marks the second time that Netanyahu and Ya’alon have sparred over Golan’s controversial remarks, which he later clarified. Right after the comments Ya'alon leaped to Golan's defense, slamming his critics as being part of an anti-IDF campaign, and claiming Golan was "charting out a path and ethical standards with the help of (his) moral compass."

An intense telephone conversation between Netanyahu and Ya'alon followed, and afterwards the IDF clarified Golan’s statements. Netanyahu later shook Golan's hand and said he put the incident behind him, before Ya'alon raised the matter again.