TEL AVIV — Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon announced Friday he was taking “time out” from public life following Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s decision to replace him with Avigdor Liberman, a former foreign minister who brings six additional seats to Netanyahu’s formerly razor-thin coalition government with his right-wing Israel is Our Home party.
In his exit speech, Ya’alon said he “lost faith” in Netanyahu and the Likud party he once called home. He flagged potentially “disastrous” trends, threatening Israeli society and the rule of law, and called on the Israeli military to continue to resist “illegitimate moral phenomena.”
This unofficial translation of remarks delivered Friday morning at Defense Ministry headquarters in Tel Aviv recounts Ya’alon’s legacy and sets the stage for his return to Israeli politics at an undetermined future time:
“This morning, I informed the prime minister that I was resigning from the government and from the Knesset and taking a time out from political life.
“I have no intention of leaving public and political life, and in the future will return to vie for the national leadership of Israel.
“I joined political life from a sense of duty and in order to act for the good of the state of Israel and its security.
“In all of my actions and decisions, I saw in front of my eyes the security of Israel and its citizens. The good of the country stood above all other considerations. This pertains to professional matters of security and to subjects pertaining to values and the rule of law.
“In all my positions, from my time in uniform up to defense minister, I wasn’t willing to sacrifice national needs and the security of Israel’s citizens for political or personal interests.
“I worked in harmony and in a serious and substantive manner and with appreciation for the prime minister for a long time; certainly during Operation Protective Edge, and for that I thank him.
“But to my great regret, I found myself, recently, in tough controversies with the prime minister, a number of ministers and members of Knesset over moral and professional issues.
“I fought with all my might against the phenomena of extremism, violence and racism in Israeli society that are threatening our national resilience and are seeping into the Israel Defense Forces; in fact already harming it.
“I fought with all my might attempts to harm the standing of the courts and the judges of Israel, processes that as a result are seriously harming law and order and are potentially disastrous to our nation.
“In general, Israeli society is healthy, with a sane majority that strives for a Jewish, democratic and liberal state; a state that accepts every person as he is, regardless of religion, race, sex, ethnic background or sexual inclination.
“A tolerant state that tolerates the weak and the minorities; a state obligated to draw them closer, not incite against them. A country that fights against attempts to exclude women or condone sexual harassment against them.
“But to my great regret, extremist and dangerous forces have taken over Israel and the Likud party and are shaking our national home and threatening to harm its residents.
“This is not the Likud movement that I joined — the Likud of Ze’ev Jabotinsky and Menachem Begin. And it is proper that the decisive majority of Likud voters and the sane public and responsible governing establishment understand the deep rifts and gathering ominous winds that are seizing the movement.
“I hope that also the public at large — from the right and the left — will understand the grave significance of the extreme minority overtaking the center and will fight against this phenomenon.
“To heartsick regret, senior politicians in the country have chosen a path of attack and separation from parts of Israeli society rather than uniting them.
“It is intolerable in my eyes that we will disintegrate into cynical and power-lusting factions. I’ve expressed my opinions on this subject out of candid concern for the future of Israeli society and generations to come.
“Leadership’s role is to lead in a principled manner by way of a moral compass that often contrasts to prevailing moods. To chart a course and not to allow electoral or polling matters drag you away from said course. [Leaders] cannot conduct or agree to be part of promiscuous and irresponsible public discourse.
“I don’t regret my professional and principled stands, even if they brought about the end of my post as defense minister. I am at peace with my path and will not deviate from it.
“I am worried about the future of Israel and will continue to fight for the right path because we have no other country.
“All along the way, in these difficult weeks, I navigated the security ship of state with determination, responsibility and sound judgment, from an understanding that human lives — of soldiers and civilians — are at stake.
“Despite the turmoil of the Middle East, Operation Protective Edge and the wave of Palestinian terror that continues to erode thanks to wide management rather than incitement, Israel today enjoys relative quiet along its borders. Its unprecedented military might deters our enemies. We have common interests with different countries in the region. This is all the result of sound, measured and responsible management on the part of the defense establishment.
“I want to thank the former Israel Defense Forces [(IDF)] chief of staff, Lt. Gen. (res.) Beni Gantz, and the current chief of staff, Lt. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot, for our cooperative work. For me, it was a big honor to work with you, with IDF generals and all the other commanders among combat echelons.
“I have no doubt that you will know to augment and lead the IDF with responsibility and good judgment, and to halt illegitimate moral phenomena.”