As a coalition agreement with Yisrael Beytenu appears imminent, Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon spoke out on Thursday about his likely successor and the emerging deal that would transfer the Defense Ministry from Yaalon to Avigdor Liberman.
Speaking at a conference for the IDF’s Nahal infantry units, Yaalon blasted his critics and made thinly veiled references to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and the decision to hand over the Defense Ministry to Liberman.
“The [leadership’s] moral compass has been lost regarding basic issues, issues that to me are quite obvious,” said Yaalon.
Yaalon hinted that Israel’s political leadership had abandoned good judgment in favor of short-term political gain.
“Even if it appears that [doing the right thing] will cost you in the short-run – [if they say] this isn’t popular, this isn’t populist, the polls say so – I don’t believe in that. Our former president once said 'Polls are like perfume, they smell nice, and then dissipate quickly.' Following a [moral] compass is still the right way to [lead], and it’s also a question of leadership.”
“What is leadership? To go along with worshipping the golden calf? There’s so many examples in history of this kind of thing, so if I would need to give some ‘golden’ advice, it would be to not permit golden calves, but to go according to a moral compass.”
Yaalon’s impending departure from the Defense Ministry follows weeks of strained tensions with the Prime Minister, who chided him over his support of Deputy Chief of Staff Yair Golan in the wake of statements Golan made comparing Israel to pre-Holocaust Europe.
Even as the controversy appeared to die down, Yaalon and Netanyahu again clashed over the right of senior army officials to weigh in on hot-button political issues.
“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,” Yaalon told IDF officials.
“Do not be afraid, do not hesitate, do not be deterred. Continue to be brave not only on the battlefield, but also around the negotiating table.”
Netanyahu quickly rebuked his Defense Minister, saying that the army was subordinate to the political leadership.
"IDF commanders express their opinions freely in the relevant forums on issues under their responsibility,” the Prime Minister’s Office said in a statement. “The IDF is the people's army and must be kept out of political debates."