Newly installed Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman on Tuesday requested a meeting with his ousted predecessor Moshe Ya’alon to formally hand over the reins at the Defense Ministry.
Liberman called Ya’alon on Tuesday, and the former defense minister agreed to “convene an orderly handover meeting,” according to a Defense MInistry statement. The date of the meeting was not immediately announced.
The call came two weeks after Ya’alon quit his Defense Ministry and Knesset posts, accusing the country’s leadership of having lost its way, after weeks of a public spat with Benjamin Netanyahu and amid reports that Liberman would soon be given the position as part of a coalition-expanding agreement.
The move meant that Ya’alon did not transition his responsibilities directly to Liberman, as is normally done when a new minister takes over.
Liberman, who formally entered office on Tuesday afternoon, held his first initial security overview with IDF chief of staff Gadi Eisenkot.
According to Hebrew media reports, the two discussed a variety of issues, including the number of terror victims in recent years.
Liberman, head of the Yisrael Beytenu party, was sworn in Monday after a Knesset vote approved his appointment.
Of the 99 lawmakers present in the plenum, 55 voted in favor of Liberman’s appointment and 43 against, with veteran Likud MK Benny Begin breaking party lines to abstain.
Begin on Tuesday hit out at “stupid” members of the right who expressed satisfaction at the resignation of defense minister Moshe Ya’alon and his replacement with Liberman. Speaking to Army Radio, he warned that based on statements Liberman made while sitting in the opposition, he expected the defense minister to seek policies that are “not considerate, not careful, not responsible, and not moderate.”
Monday’s Knesset vote came hours after the cabinet unanimously gave the go-ahead for the appointment as part of a deal to bring Liberman’s party into the coalition.
The addition of Yisrael Beytenu gives the governing coalition 66 seats in the 120-seat Knesset, bolstering its previously paper-thin majority of 61.
Following Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s decision to appoint Liberman, Ya’alon, a respected former IDF chief, announced that he would be resigning from the Knesset and temporarily retiring from politics.
“Extremist and dangerous forces have taken over Israel and the Likud party and are shaking our national home and threatening to harm its residents,” he said at the time.
Politicians and pundits reacted with unease and disdain when the decision to appoint Liberman was first announced nearly two weeks ago, warning that giving the Defense Ministry to the firebrand politician was a dangerous move.
Liberman, who served as foreign minister before moving to the opposition after elections last year, lacks military experience, usually a prerequisite for Israeli defense ministers, but is outspoken on defense matters.
He famously split with Netanyahu, then a partner in a Knesset faction encompassing both Likud and Yisrael Beytenu, on how to manage the 2014 Gaza war and has been outspoken in demanding the death penalty in terrorism cases, to the extent that he made it a prerequisite for his joining the coalition after the elections last March. He later dropped the demand.
In a possible effort to assuage concerns over his past rhetoric, Liberman touted his pro-peace credentials in a Knesset address after Monday’s vote, hailing a recent speech by Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi urging Israelis and Palestinians to return to talks as “a real opportunity.”