Former defense minister Moshe Ya’alon announced his intention to run for prime minister on Thursday, less than a month after resigning from the government amid a political upheaval.
In his speech, Ya’alon accused the country’s leaders of “blinding” the country with imaginary existential threats in order to distract them from the serious issues facing Israel. Plainly referring to the Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu but not naming him, Ya’alon said the leadership incites sections of Israeli society against each other, and cynically peddles the false sense that Israel is “on the brink of a second Holocaust.”
“It is my intention to run for the leadership in the next elections,” Ya’alon said, prompting applause from the audience.
The Likud party released a statement shortly after Ya’alon made his remarks, stopping just short of calling him a hypocrite for downplaying the threat of Iran, which he once warned against.
“It’s amusing to watch how quickly Ya’alon changes his spots. Just a few months ago he said: ‘Iran is an existential concern for Israel,'” the party said in its statement. “Today at the Herzliya Conference, when he became a politician, he said there are no existential concerns for Israel.”
In a dramatic turn of events, Ya’alon was ousted as defense minister last month, a position he had held since 2013. In the weeks since, commentators and analysts have rushed to determine how and with whom Ya’alon could make his political comeback.
The former Likud member did not indicate with which party he would run.
This was not Ya’alon’s first time indicating his intention to run for office, and indeed he made a similar announcement during his resignation speech in Tel Aviv last month. Many of the lines from his speech on Thursday were even picked directly from his speech nearly a month ago.
“I have no intention of [permanently] leaving public life, and in the future I will return as a candidate for national leadership,” he said on May 20.
At the 16th annual Herzliya Conference at the Interdisciplinary Center, Ya’alon reiterated that decision, but also came out harshly against the current government.
“It is intolerable that Israel’s leadership in 2016 tries to incite Jews against Arabs, right against left, and between different tribes, all in order to survive in the government and to get another month or another year” in office, he said. “The job of a leadership is unify society, even when there are substantive political differences, not to foster division.”
Despite claims to the contrary by Israel’s current leaders, “at this time and for the foreseeable future, there is no existential threat facing Israel,” Ya’alon said, without naming any particular politicians or leaders who say the opposite.
“Israel is the strongest country in the region,” Ya’alon said. “Therefore it’s reasonable that the leadership should cease terrifying its citizens and stop trying to give them a feeling that we are on the brink of a second Holocaust.”
Ya’alon cited Israel’s economic and social woes, including racism and sexism, as issues he would seek to address in a leadership position.
“Good people are deterred from entering politics. But we can’t throw up our hands and say someone else will take care of it,” he added, slamming the “violent” rhetoric of Israeli politicians.
“I plan on offering an alternative to the current leadership, because we do not have another country,” he said, before leaving the stage and exiting the building.