On Friday, Israel’s defense minister, center-right pragmatist Moshe Yaalon, announced his resignation: “To my great sorrow, extremist and dangerous elements have taken over Israel.” His post, the Guardian reports, has been offered to his ideological nightmare: right-wing hawk Avigdor Lieberman.
Yaalon’s resignation comes as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu seeks to reinforce his precarious political coalition, which barely controls the Israeli government, by a majority of one in the 120-seat Knesset.
Earlier in the week, as Netanyahu publicly negotiated with Lieberman to bring him into the fold, Yaalon spoke at a youth seminar in Tel Aviv where he expressed disappointment at the “loss of moral compass on basic questions” in Israeli society: “We need to steer the country in accordance with one’s conscious and not whichever way the wind is blowing.”
After divisive statements by Maj. Gen. Yair Golan, his deputy chief of staff, on a day commemorating victims of the Holocaust, Mr. Yaalon said that senior army officers should be able to express their views.
General Golan came under fire after he compared recent trends in Israel to events in Nazi-era Germany, and Mr. Yaalon said he viewed complaints about the comments as a disturbing political effort to damage the military’s standing.
After an Israeli soldier shot and killed a wounded Palestinian assailant in the West Bank city of Hebron, Mr. Yaalon took an immediate stand, saying that the soldier should be brought to justice because he had violated military code.
Announcing his resignation on Friday, Yaalon said, “In general, Israeli society is a healthy society, and the majority of it is sane and aims for a Jewish, democratic and liberal country. But to my great sorrow, extremist and dangerous elements have taken over Israel and the Likud Party and are shaking the foundations and threatening to hurt its residents.”
Lieberman—a former nightclub bouncer from Moldova who served as Israel’s minister of foreign affairs, before resigning amid a corruption case in 2012 (he was acquitted in 2013)—has called for the introduction of the death penalty as a punishment for terrorism and the transferral of Israeli Arabs to the Palestinian territories.
Last year, Lieberman said that Israeli Arabs found to be disloyal to the state of Israel should be beheaded: “Those who are against us, there’s nothing to be done—we need to pick up an ax and cut off his head...Otherwise we won’t survive here.”