Seeking to assuage fears over the expected appointment of Avigdor Liberman as defense minister, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday said he has the final word on Israel’s security operations.
The prime minister also urged Israelis to stop their “crying and moaning,” over the dramatic political shake-up that saw former defense minister Moshe Ya’alon abruptly leave political life on Friday, with Liberman set to replace him and bring his five-seat Yisrael Beytenu party into the razor-thin coalition.
“I, who fought as an officer and soldier in [the elite unit] Sayeret Matkal, who was in battle and was injured — I see to Israel’s security,” and “lead the operations,” said Netanyahu.
“In the end, the prime minister navigates all the operations with the defense minister and IDF chief of staff. It seems I haven’t done a bad job in the past two years, and so it will continue now. Responsible, determined, intelligent policies designed to uphold security,” he said.
The prime minister also addressed the outcry over Liberman’s imminent appointment as defense chief, while also alluding to the former defense minister himself, who in the weeks prior to his resignation was highly critical of Netanyahu and of the alleged moral atrophying of Israeli society.
“In politics people say all sorts of things, but I, on the other hand, keeps my words to a minimum,” Netanyahu said during a press conference with visiting Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka. “I don’t concern myself with words but with actions… I hear these voices in the media, the self-flagellating voices, the fear-mongering. I suggest they quit their crying and moaning.”
Netanyahu spoke two days after a prominent Israeli military reporter, Roni Daniel, said on TV that he wasn’t sure he wanted his children to remain in Israel.
In his remarks Sunday, the prime minister seemed to address the comments, declaring that Israeli children belonged in Israel and nowhere else.
“Israel is a success story. I am proud of [our country], its citizens, the IDF, its generals and its soldiers. They act — as do we [the government] day and night — to protect our children, and let me tell you, our children’s security and future is here and nowhere else,” said Netanyahu.
In his remarks Sunday, the prime minister also maintained he would continue to seek a regional peace initiative.
Netanyahu and Liberman were expected to finalize a coalition deal on Monday, as the Knesset opens its summer session.
In the wake of Ya’alon’s resignation, the prime minister offered perceived moderate Benny Begin a ministerial role and membership in the security cabinet, his inner circle of ministers, according to a Channel 2 report. Begin is likely to refuse the post, the report said.
Also Sunday, the Zionist Union held its first faction meeting since the coalition talks between leader Isaac Herzog and Netanyahu fell apart last week. Six Zionist Union lawmakers skipped the meeting in protest of Herzog’s conduct.
Those who attended, meanwhile, piled on the criticism.
Herzog’s co-leader, MK Tzipi Livni, is reported to have said: “I expected a lot more from the partnership between us, and I have immense criticism over the manner in which you conducted the negotiations.”
MK Merav Michaeli accused Herzog of “wrongfully taking advantage of the trust the faction put in you.” MK Itzik Shmuli said “there is a sense of betrayal, that you don’t trust us and don’t include us in such a significant process.”
Netanyahu on Sunday continued to extend an invitation to the Zionist Union to enter the coalition, a day after Herzog indicated he would no longer consider such an offer.