Moshe Ya’alon pledges to return to challenge Netanyahu

Israel's outgoing defense minister, Moshe Ya'alon, speaking at a press conference in which he announced his resignation from the Knesset, at the Kirya in Tel Aviv, May 20, 2016. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Israel’s outgoing defense minister, Moshe Ya’alon, speaking at a press conference in which he announced his resignation from the Knesset, at the Kirya in Tel Aviv, May 20, 2016. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

(JTA) – Israel’s recently resigned defense minister, Moshe Ya’alon, sent an email to former campaign donors suggesting that 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, reported the Jerusalem Post.

Ya’alon resigned from his post 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, Ya’alon, 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, Ya’alon 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 co-operation 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. 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.”

Ya’alon 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,” said.

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

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