Ya’alon, running solo, skewers former allies and potential new partners

Recent polls show defense minister under the electoral threshold after pulling his Telem faction out of Lapid’s Yesh Atid

Shalom Yerushalmi

Shalom Yerushalmi is the political analyst for Zman Israel, The Times of Israel’s Hebrew current affairs website

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)

Former defense minister Moshe Ya’alon said Friday he plans to run alone in the upcoming March elections, despite his dire showing in recent opinion polls.

In an interview with Zman Yisrael, The Times of Israel’s Hebrew-language sister site, Ya’alon lashed out at his former running mates.

“[Defense Minister Benny] Gantz caused major damage to Israel. He caused public distrust in politicians. He toxifies the environment. He should quit.” Ya’alon said.

Gantz received criticism for breaking his campaign promise of not joining a government headed by Benjamin Netanyahu, when he did just that after the March 2020 elections, prompting Ya’alon to quit Gantz’s Blue and White party, along with Yair Lapid and his Yesh Atid faction.

From left to right: Moshe Ya’alon, Benny Gantz and Yair Lapid, the leaders of the Blue and White coalition, at the announcement of their alliance in Tel Aviv, February 21, 2019. (Ilia Yefimovich/Getty Images)

Last week Ya’alon and Lapid said they were unable to come to an agreement on the terms of a continued partnership, and would run separately in the upcoming election.

“I told Lapid, let’s try something else,” Ya’alon said. “You’re fit to be prime minister, but the public doesn’t trust you. It didn’t work out, so I’m running alone.”

A survey published Tuesday indicated that seven small political parties headed by known politicians and officials, including Ya’alon’s Telem, would not cross the electoral threshold if elections were held today.

“Suddenly 18 ‘Blue and White’ seats are hanging around [Naftali] Bennett and [Gideon] Sa’ar, but they aren’t talking about [Netanyahu’s] corruption,” Ya’alon exclaimed.

Last week, two lawmakers aligned with the Blue and White party announced they would join former Likud MK Sa’ar’s new right-wing party in the next election, claiming that Netanyahu is focused solely on his personal legal considerations and must be replaced.

Ya’alon added, “Sa’ar took Yoaz Hendel and Zvi Hauser. They betrayed me, and the voters, once before. Is this the alternative to Netanyahu? I do not trust any of them.”

The religious right-wing Yamina party, headed by Bennett, won’t join forces with Sa’ar’s New Hope party for a joint Knesset run. Speaking with Channel 13 news Wednesday, Bennett said Sa’ar had committed himself to the anti-Netanyahu camp by vowing not to join a coalition headed by the incumbent premier. Bennett himself has not ruled out serving in a government with Netanyahu.

Yamina leader Naftali Bennett at a protest against the State’s intention to close the Hilla Project, outside the Knesset in Jerusalem on August 12, 2020. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Ya’alon, in his Friday interview, said Bennett was responsible for the failures of Israel’s coronavirus handling “no less than others,” due to his actions during the beginning of the crisis as defense minister.

Despite this, Bennett has since been in the opposition, and leading the polls, while criticizing the government for its shortcomings in dealing with the pandemic.

A poll published by Radio 103FM on Monday predicted that Yamina would be the second-largest party in the Knesset, gaining 17 seats.

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