PM Calls Yaalon to Task Over ‘IDF Political Debate’ Comments

YERUSHALAYIM -
Israel’s Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon (L) speaks with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu during a session of the Knesset on Monday. (REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun)
Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon (L.) speaks with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu in the Knesset. (Reuters/Ronen Zvulun)

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu will meet with Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon after he summoned the latter to an emergency meeting, to give Yaalon an opportunity to explain the intention of remarks he made Sunday night, in which he ostensibly encouraged IDF officers to take political stands on national issues.

At an Independence Day event Sunday night, Yaalon called on officers, “both senior and junior, to continue saying what is in your hearts. Do it even if you think those things are out of the mainstream, and even if they are not in tandem with the stances held by senior officials or the political echelon. Do not hesitate or fear to speak out. Continue to bravely act not just on the battlefield, but around the table where you discuss things. A good army is where its officers feel free to express their thoughts at any time, with the knowledge that they will not be harmed. Senior officers, you must continue to demand that those reporting to you continue to act according to their conscience, and not to be swayed by the winds of opinion.”

MKs and Ministers on the right have slammed Yaalon for the comments, accusing him of trying to “politicize” the army. Speaking on Army Radio, Energy and Water Minister Yuval Steinitz said that Yaalon “had made a terrible mistake. In the days of Ben Gurion this would not have happened. I do not understand his motivations in this matter. The proper role for a Defense Minister is to ensure the proper operation of the defense forces, and to ensure that the IDF is taken care of. He is supposed to specifically prevent what is happening now – it is not good for the IDF.” MK Michael Oren (Yesh Atid) said that “we must ensure that the IDF is kept out of politics. This is one of the basic and most important foundations of Israeli democracy.”

MK Oren Chazan said that “somebody needs to remind Yaalon that we live in a democracy, not a military dictatorship. The IDF is not a junta – it’s job is to do what the political echelon decides, and not to make its own policy.”

Sources in the Prime Minister’s office expressed anger over the comments, saying that they had caused Israel international damage. With that, an official statement from Netanyahu’s office said that the Prime Minister “fully supports the IDF, its commanders and its soldiers. Officers are free to say what they want in the relevant forums. The IDF is a people’s army and it must be kept out of the political debate.”