A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Friday, May 20, 2016

Moshe Ya'alon, Former General, Replaced as Israel Defense Minister by Avigdor Lieberman, Former Bouncer and Non-Veteran. Does Israel Feel More Secure Now?

Please forgive the multi-tiered headline, but I couldn't resist. You probably already know that in order to expand his coalition, Binyamin Netanyahu replaced his Defense Minister, retired General Moshe Ya'alon, of his own Likud Party, with Yisrael Beitenu's Avigdor Lieberman, who indeed was once a bouncer who did not serve in the IDF. Netanyahu had been trying to enlarge his fragile coalition and had been making overtures to Zionist Union (Labor) leader Isaac Herzog. Bringing the Opposition leader into the coalition would have tilted the coalition, now the most right-wing in Israel's history, a bit to the center-right. Bringing in Lieberman instead, moves it even farther right.

But reaction has been harshly critical beginning with Ya'alon himself, who chose not to go gentle into that good night. Instead of attending Lieberman's swearing-in on Sunday, he resigned effective Friday afternoon, and went out with several blasts at Netanyahu for abandoning him and defending hisown behavior. No dove himself, h criticized Israel's rightward drift.

Former Prime Minister Ehud Barak warned that the government was sowing the "seeds of fascism," while former Defense Minister Moshe Arens, once a Likud stalwart, wrote in a column in Ha'aretz, (paywalled) in which he said:
The coalition representation in the Knesset will increase to 67 from 61. But the price Likud’s leaders paid for these six extra votes is a heavy one for both the country and Likud far heavier than they seem to realize. Their simple-minded explanation that a stable government is good for Israel and therefore replacing Ya’alon with Lieberman must be good for Israel is not likely to be accepted by most Israelis.
The defense minister is not just another of Israel’s many government ministers. He is by far the most important minister, shouldering direct responsibility for Israel’s security, the personal security of Israel’s citizens, and the lives of their children serving in the Israel Defense Forces.
Defenders of the murky deal to oust an xcellent defense minister offer an explanation: that in addition to the defense minister, many others are involved in taking decisions on defense matters which presumably means that it’s not so important who the defense minister is. This shows an abject ignorance of the workings of the defense establishment.
All Israelis were lucky to have Ya’alon as defense chief these last few years, and this luck now seems to have run out. Choosing between an excellent defense minister serving in a narrow coalition and firing an excellent defense minister and obtaining a few more coalition votes should have been easy. But Benjamin Netanyahu made the wrong choice.
Tensions between the IDF command and the security services on the one hand and Netanyahu on the other hand have been bad for years due to disagreements over Iran and other issues, but the Ya'alon dismissal seems to have exacerbated the problem.

No comments: