Israel’s ex-defense minister pledges to return to challenge Netanyahu


(JTA) — Moshe Yaalon, who recently resigned as defense minister of Israel, sent an email to former campaign donors suggesting he would soon mount an electoral challenge to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

“I regard this period as a ‘time-out’ after which I intend to return and run for Israel’s national leadership,” he wrote in English in the email, The Jerusalem Post reported.

Yaalon resigned from his post and the Knesset on May 20 when it came to light that Netanyahu was in negotiations with Avigdor Liberman to bring his nationalist Yisrael Beiteinu party into the ruling coalition, giving Netanyahu a more stable majority.

In announcing his resignation Yaalon, a longtime member of Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud party, said he had lost faith in Netanyahu and that he was “fearful for Israel’s future” due to rising extremism. Liberman was sworn in Tuesday as defense minister.

In the letter to donors, Yaalon reiterated his opposition to the new coalition and its implications for his party and Israeli politics in general.

“I am saddened to witness the fact that a small and extreme minority are taking over sectors of the Likud Party and influencing parts of Israel’s complex society,” he wrote. He briefly thanked Netanyahu for his cooperation in Operation Protective Edge, Israel’s 2014 military campaign in the Gaza Strip, but went on to criticize the prime minister for playing politics without naming him directly.

“It is unfortunate that some of Israel’s most senior politicians have chosen the path of separation and incitement instead of reducing the flames of conflict,” Yaalon wrote. “A strong leadership should be driven by a sense of moral standards, and this path should be pursued even in the face of opposition. When leadership is driven by electoral considerations and swayed by public opinion, this is an avenue I can no longer traverse with a clear conscience.”

Yaalon concluded his letter by thanking his donors for their “friendship and support over the years” and invited them to stay in touch.

“I have always considered the naturally strong bond between Israel and World Jewry of prime importance,” he said.

According to The Jerusalem Post, Yaalon’s spokesman declined to elaborate on the letter’s intentions or Yaalon’s future plans, saying readers were free to interpret the letter “as they see fit.”

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