Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon announced that he was stepping down from his position, and will retire from public life. Yaalon made the announcement on social media Friday morning, and added that he would issue an official statement at 12:00 Friday.
Yaalon cited poor faith in Netanyahu after Netanyahu proposed replacing him as part of a move to expand the coalition government.
“I informed the PM that after his conduct and recent developments, and given the lack of faith in him, I am resigning from the government and parliament and taking a break from political life,” Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon said.
Netanyahu’s office did not immediately respond to Yaalon’s resignation announcement.
The way is thus open for Yisrael Beytenu to join the coalition, and for Avigdor Liberman to take on the job of Defense Minister. Channel Ten reported earlier Friday morning that the agreement was likely to be signed in the coming hours, but the likelihood was now much stronger that the deal would be sealed before Shabbos in light of Yaalon’s announcement.
In his message, Ya’alon said that he had informed Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu of his intention to resign “as a result of recent developments, and because of my general lack of faith in his leadership.”
Besides naming Liberman as Defense Minister, the agreement with Likud is likely to include another ministerial position for the party – that of the Absorption portfolio, with the job likely going to MK Sophia Landver – as well as an appointment of a party MK as a Deputy Knesset Speaker. The government will also promise to advance several pieces of legislation Yisrael Beytenu would like to see enacted, including a bill to impose the death penalty on terrorists.
Yaalon’s exit could put a new dent in domestic and Western confidence in the Netanyahu government.
A former chief of IDF, Yaalon had shored up relations with the Pentagon that provided a counter-weight to Netanyahu’s policy feuds with President Barack Obama over peace talks with the Palestinians and Iran’s nuclear program.
By contrast, Liberman is inexperienced militarily and known for his past hawkish talk against Palestinians, Israel’s Arab minority and Egypt – a key regional security partner for Israel.
The inclusion of Liberman’s Yisrael Beytenu would give the Likud control over 67 of parliament’s 120 seats, up from the current razor-thin majority of 61.
U.S. officials have declined comment on the prospect of dealing with Liberman as Israeli Defense Minister.