Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon announced his resignation from the government and the Knesset on Friday morning, citing his lack of faith in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
“I notified the prime minister this morning that in the wake of his behavior during the latest developments, and in light of my lack of faith in him, I am resigning from the government and the Knesset and taking a break from political life,” Ya’alon said in a statement released to the media.
He is scheduled to give a press briefing at noon at Defense Ministry headquarters in Tel Aviv’s Kirya compound.
Sources close to the defense minister said the resignation would be proffered on Friday, and would go into effect within 48 hours.
Ya’alon’s resignation comes amid a dramatic coalition shake-up in which his post has been handed to Yisrael Beytenu leader MK Avigdor Liberman in a bid to bring Liberman into Netanyahu’s razor-thin 61-seat coalition.
The appointment of Liberman, an outspoken populist who has threatened to assassinate Hamas leaders and has called Arab lawmakers “traitors,” to such a sensitive post has drawn widespread criticism, including from Netanyahu supporters such as former cabinet minister Benny Begin.
Netanyahu and Ya’alon have also sparred in recent weeks over Ya’alon’s defense of IDF prosecutors in the trial of a soldier who shot and killed a disarmed Palestinian stabber in March, and his call on Israel Defense Forces generals to speak out on moral issues.
Netanyahu had been said to be preparing to offer Ya’alon the Foreign Ministry post.
A Channel 10 poll on Thursday found that Israelis preferred Ya’alon, a former chief of staff of the IDF, in the post rather than Liberman.
According to the poll, just over half (51 percent) of Israelis believe Ya’alon is better suited to serve in the post, with just 27% saying Liberman would be better. Less than one-quarter, or 22%, said they did not know which politician was more suited for the position.
Fifty-two percent of respondents said they did not support the expected appointment of Liberman to the post, while 32% said they did. Sixteen percent said they didn’t know.
A Channel 2 survey found less of a gap, however. Ya’alon had the support of 38% who said they wanted him to stay on the job, while 35% preferred Liberman. Seventeen percent said neither and 10% didn’t know.
Ya’alon’s resignation drew a swift response from Yesh Atid MK Ofer Shelah, who called Ya’alon a “decent man who did the decent thing: He refused to be another clown in the Netanyahu circus, and left him in disgust.”
The Channel 10 survey included 611 respondents — 497 of them Jews and 114 from the Arab community — and had a margin of error of 4.1%.
The Channel 2 poll had a margin of error of 4.4% and 502 respondents.