Netanyahu, Ya’alon Clarify Free Speech in IDF

YERUSHALAYIM -

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon have officially resolved their dispute over IDF officers’ right to speak out on controversial issues.

After a meeting on Monday, they issued a joint statement of “clarification,” which said “There is no dispute, and there will not be one, that the army is subordinate to the government, and officers are free to express their opinions in the relevant forums.”

The statement, which ended there, was noted for its brevity, and spokesmen for both Netanyahu and Ya’alon declined to comment any further. It was described as “a high-tension meeting” by The Times of Israel.

Netanyahu summoned Ya’alon to the Monday meeting after Ya’alon urged military officers the night before to speak their minds even when in conflict with their superiors.

The comment apparently referred to controversial remarks by Deputy Chief of Staff Maj.-Gen. Yair Golan on Holocaust Remembrance Day that could be understood as comparing elements in Israelis society to 1930s Germany. The IDF later clarified that Golan did not mean to compare extremism in Israeli society to 1930s Germany.

Culture Minister Miri Regev (Likud), a former IDF spokeswoman, said Ya’alon was “confused.”

“Army commanders need to ‘speak their minds’ in the appropriate forums and on the subjects for which they are responsible. It cannot be that an officer on duty will take the reins from the political level and act as though it’s an army that has a country,” Regev stated.

“Army commanders are responsible for building and using force, and on those topics they must bang on the table and argue…As a Brig.-Gen. in reserves, I was present in hundreds of such arguments, and that is where a commander can and should have an influence.”

A source close to Ya’alon brusquely dismissed the critcisms as cowardly and populistic.