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His Telem party had 0.2% support in latest poll

Ya’alon bows out of politics: The ‘battle for change’ has more chance without me

Head of Telem says party, freefalling in polls, will drop out of March elections so opposition can maximize its strength

Moshe Ya'alon seen during a visit in Vered Yeriho observation point, in the Judean Desert, January 21, 2020. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)
Moshe Ya'alon seen during a visit in Vered Yeriho observation point, in the Judean Desert, January 21, 2020. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

With his party plummeting in the polls, Moshe Ya’alon announced on Monday that he and his Telem party would not be running in the March elections, saying that Israel must concentrate all its strength on the “battle for change.”

“I believed that by running independently with Telem, we could increase the power of the [political] camp pushing for change,” Ya’alon said in a statement. “This working assumption turned out to be wrong. In the political circumstances that have arisen, the battle for change requires me and Telem not to run in the upcoming elections.”

“Israel must concentrate all its strength on the fight for change: To heal the rifts in society, to thwart the culture of falsehood, to restore integrity to our way of life and to strengthen democracy, which is eroded every day,” Ya’alon said.

Citing his service in the Israel Defense Forces and then as defense minister, Ya’alon said that “the good of the country” has guided every decision in his career.

A campaign poster depicting Moshe ‘Boogie’ Ya’alon reading in Hebrew ‘Boogie – For Israel’ in Tel Aviv, January 10, 2021 (Miriam Alster/FLASH90)

“The preference for the good of the country precedes any personal benefit, and for this election, too, I came out of the same sense of mission,” he said.

Ya’alon, who has aligned himself with the protest movement against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, referred to the premier only as the “criminal accused” and asked his followers to remember the nearly 5,000 people in Israel who have died of COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic.

Ya’alon courted the centrist vote despite holding views that are squarely right-wing. A hawk on Iran and staunch supporter of settlements, Ya’alon famously stoked diplomatic tensions with the US in 2014, when he called then-secretary of state John Kerry “messianic and obsessive.”

A Channel 12 poll released Sunday put Telem as one of the parties that would fail to clear the 3.25 percent electoral threshold, gaining just 0.2% of the vote. The poll also showed The Israelis, Ron Huldai’s party sometimes touted as a possible merger partner for Telem, as failing to make it into the Knesset, getting just 1.2% of the vote.

Ya’alon, a former IDF chief of staff, entered the Knesset with Likud in 2009. He quit Netanyahu’s government in 2016 when Avigdor Liberman was offered the position of defense minister — then held by him — as part of a coalition agreement.

In the previous election, Telem and Yesh Atid ran on a joint slate with Benny Gantz’s Israel Resilience party, an alliance known as Blue and White.

The party broke apart when Gantz decided to enter a coalition with Netanyahu in May 2020, citing the need to prevent a fourth consecutive election by forming a unity government that could tackle the health and economic crises caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

(From L-R) Moshe Ya’alon, Yair Lapid and chairman Benny Gantz attend a Blue and White faction meeting at the Knesset on October 28, 2019. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

Ya’alon and Lapid insisted that Netanyahu could not be trusted and would always place his personal interests, and his effort to evade prosecution from the criminal indictments he is facing, before the greater good.

Some of Ya’alon’s Telem lawmakers joined Netanyahu’s coalition. MKs Yoaz Hendel and Zvi Hauser have since announced that they will run with Gideon Sa’ar’s New Hope party in the March election.

The March 23 elections will be the fourth round of voting in two years. They were triggered in late December after Netanyahu refused to pass a state budget, enabling him to escape his coalition deal pledge to hand over the premiership to Gantz in November 2021.

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