Israeli PM “regrets” defense minister’s resignation

JERUSALEM, May 21: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Friday that he “regrets” the resignation of Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, amidst a move to replace the latter with an ultranationalist politician to enlarge his coalition.

On Friday morning, Ya’alon announced he had decided to leave the government to take a time out of political life, citing “lack of confidence” in Netanyahu.

In a live broadcasted statement at noon, he said that the ruling Likud party was taken over by “extremist and dangerous elements” after Netanyahu reportedly decided to replace him with the hawkish Avigdor Lieberman, leader of the Yisrael Beytenu (“Israel Our Home”) party.

In the afternoon, Netanyahu released a counter-statement, saying he “regrets” the resignation.
“I think he should continue being a full partner in the country’s leadership by heading the Foreign Ministry,” he said in a video statement released by the Prime Minister’s Office. “I greatly appreciate the work we did together, day and night, for the security of Israel,” he added.

He said that the proposed change in the distribution of portfolios “was not due to a crisis of confidence between us, but due to the need to expand the coalition in order to bring stability to the government so we can tackle challenges ahead.”

Ya’alon’s leaving was widely perceived as a loss of a voice of moderation in Netanyahu’s right-wing cabinet, which includes the Likud ruling party, the far-right Jewish home faction, and Jewish ultra-Orthodox parties.

Netanyahu and Lieberman’s factions were in intensive negotiations on Thursday to finalize the details of the deal, which would pave Lieberman’s party way into the cabinet, expanding the coalition government from 61 to 67 in the 120-member parliament.  (Xinhua) —