Israel ‘Has Lost Its Moral Compass’: Defense Minister
Israeli Defense Minister Moshe “Bogie” Ya’alon abruptly resigned Friday morning, after saying the country had ‘lost its moral compass’ the day before.
“I have lately found myself in difficult moral and professional controversies with the Prime Minister, a number of other ministers, and some members of Knesset,” Ya’alon said at a Tel Aviv press conference after his announcement.
“To my great sorrow, they have taken over Israel, and the Likud movement, dangerous and extremist elements, that upend the house and threaten it. This is not the Likud movement that I joined.”
Ya’alon had been under increasing pressure from hard-right opponents for his perceived liberal views. This intensified during an extended public argument with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over the Israeli military. Over the last few weeks, Ya’alon encouraged IDF generals to speak out about moral issues and the rules of engagement, “regardless of whichever way the wind blows.” The statement was seen as criticism of Netanyahu.
The tabloid Israel Hayom, seen as closely linked to Netanyahu, reported last week that Ya’alon would be replaced by controversial right-wing politician Avigdor Lieberman in an effort to bring his six-seat Yisrael Beytenu party into the Likud-led government. Ya’alon was to take over the Foreign Ministry post, currently held by Netanyahu, the paper reported. Ya’alon said on Wednesday he had not been offered the spot.
Netanyahu and Ya’alon met for an hour on Monday to reconcile their differences, saying, “There is no quarrel.”
Ya’alon then gave a speech at the IDF’s Tel Aviv headquarters later in the day, telling the heads of Israel’s youth movements that “our moral compass for basic questions has been lost,” reports the Times of Israel.
“What is leadership? Going along with the worship of the Golden Calf?” Ya’alon asked rhetorically. “There are a ton of incidents in history like that, so if I have to give a piece of golden advice, it’s don’t allow a Golden Calf.”
Quoting an Aramaic proverb, Ya’alon blamed the recent upheaval on a small portion of the population with a disproportionate amount of influence. “As they say, a small stone in an empty cask makes a lot of noise.”
Though in this case, he said, “the stone is already not so small.”
On Friday morning, Ya’alon suddenly announced he would take a “timeout from politics” on social media, vowing to return sometime in the future. Israel Hayom reported that Temple Mount activist Yehuda Glick, no. 33 on the Likud list, is slated to replace him in the Knesset.
Glick has called on Jews to pray at one of Jerusalem’s holiest sites, known to Muslims as al-Haram al-Sharif, or the Noble Sanctuary, and to Jews as the Temple Mount. Under the status quo agreement between Israel and Jordan, only Muslims are allowed to pray at the holy site.
In October 2014, Glick was shot in the upper body after leaving a conference called “The Jewish People Return to the Temple Mount.”
Netanyahu issued a statement lamenting Ya’alon’s resignation, reports CNN. “I am sorry about the decision of ‘Bogie’ Ya’alon. I believe that he needed to stay as a full partner in the leadership of the state in the position of foreign minister,” Netanyahu said, referring to the post Ya’alon was offered instead of defense minister.
“I would like to thank him for years of service in the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) and the defense establishment. The allocation of portfolios did not emerge from a fallout of trust between us. It emerged from the need to widen the government in order to bring stability to the State of Israel as it faces significant challenges before it.”