Liberman Begins Transition Period at Defense Ministry

YERUSHALAYIM -
Israel’s new Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman (R) meets with IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eizenkott at the Defense Ministry in Tel Aviv, on Tuesday. (Ariel Hermoni/Ministry of Defense)
Israel’s new Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman (R) meets with IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eizenkott at the Defense Ministry in Tel Aviv, on Tuesday. (Ariel Hermoni/Ministry of Defense)

Nothing about Avigdor Liberman’s appointment as Defense Minister went smoothly, and the formal transition from his predecessor Moshe Yaalon was no exception.

On his first working day at the ministry, Liberman had to phone Yaalon to request a handover meeting, even though briefings provided for an incoming minister by an outgoing minister are normal procedure.

Yaalon agreed to “convene an orderly handover meeting,” according to a Defense Ministry statement. The date of the meeting was not immediately announced. Yaalon had resigned from the office amid an acrimonious dispute over the right of IDF officers to express their opinions publicly, among other issues.

Liberman held his first initial security overview with IDF chief of staff Gadi Eizenkott on Tuesday afternoon. According to media reports, the two discussed a variety of issues, including the number of terror victims in recent years.

Israeli media reaction has been predictably partisan. The leftist Haaretz ran an opinion piece saying that “‘Defense Minister Liberman’ is a phrase that the mind refuses to accept. It’s a black day for Israel, a day on which flags should fly at half-mast on all Israel Defense Forces bases.”

On the other hand, Israel Hayom, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s favorite newspaper, was approving:

“Now it’s official — there’s a new defense minister in the state of Israel. The head of Yisrael Beytenu seemed happy as he ascended the podium in the Knesset to be sworn in … when he came down, ministers and lawmakers from the coalition came up to him to congratulate him. Despite that, only a handful of opposition members knew how to rise above political fighting and congratulate the new defense minister.”