JERUSALEM (JTA) — Moshe Yaalon made it clear that he intends to run for prime minister of Israel less than a month after resigning as defense minister and from the Knesset.
“I intend to run for the leadership in Israel in the next elections,” Yaalon said Thursday during a speech at the annual Herzliya Conference.
Yaalon stepped down on May 20 when it came to light that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was in negotiations with Avigdor Liberman to bring his nationalist Yisrael Beiteinu party into the ruling coalition, giving Netanyahu a more stable majority. Liberman was named defense minister.
At the time of his resignation, Yaalon indicated that he would soon return to challenge Netanyahu for Israel’s leadership. The next national vote is scheduled for 2019, but could be held earlier.
On Thursday, calling himself an “alternative” to the current leadership, Yaalon accused Netanyahu of fear mongering by attempting to scare Israeli citizens about security threats to distract them from Israel’s serious problems. Yaalon said the Iran nuclear threat does not signal an imminent existential threat during the period of the agreement signed between Iran and six world powers, and that “we have to prepare for future events.”
“At this time and in the foreseeable future, there is not existential threat to Israel. It is the strongest state in the region and there is an enormous gap with every country and organization stationed around it,” he said. “Therefore, it is appropriate for the leadership in Israel to cease scaring the citizens and to stop telling them that we are on the verge of a second Holocaust.”
Netanyahu, in a response issued by his office, said Yaalon’s remarks could not be regarded as serious.
“Security is a serious matter,” Netanyahu’s statement said. “One cannot say at a conference in Munich four months ago that Iran is an existential threat to Israel and today at the Herzliya Conference say that Iran is not an existential threat to Israel. One cannot express full confidence in the leadership when one is part of it and then say the complete opposite when you are outside; therefore, no importance should be ascribed to such political attacks.”