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Netanyahu, Ya’alon smooth over differences on outspoken IDF officers

Israel’s prime minister met the defence minister yesterday to mend any differences over IDF officers speaking controversially, issuing a joint statement on the issue.

The “clarification meeting”, at Prime Minister Netanyahu’s office, took place after Moshe Ya’alon had urged commanders to “be brave not just in the battlefield, but also at the discussion table,” insisting that they should speak their mind on moral issues “even if it differs from the positions and ideas voiced by senior commanders or the political leadership”. Ya’alon’s comments appeared to reignite debate over IDF Deputy Chief of Staff Yair Golan’s public contention earlier this month that some processes from 1930s Germany could be detected in Israel today. Ya’alon had backed Golan, who was sharply criticised by Netanyahu over his comments.

However, Netanyahu and Ya’alon presented a united front by issuing a joint statement which said that they “met this morning and clarified the matter,” explaining: “There is no dispute, nor was there ever, as to the army being subordinate to the political echelon, and officers are free to express their views in relevant forums.”  However, Yediot Ahronot suggests that a rift still exists between the two. Meanwhile, fellow Likud Minister Yuval Steinitz criticised Ya’alon, saying: “I don’t understand Ya’alon’s motives for saying what he said”, while Likud’s Culture Minister Miri Regev called Ya’alon “confused”.

In another political development, it is widely reported this morning that Netanyahu met Zionist Union head Isaac Herzog Sunday evening to further discuss the possibility of bringing the largest opposition party into government. Netanyahu currently has a razor-thin majority of just one MK and rumours have been circulating for several weeks that Herzog is keen to join the coalition, with the prospect of becoming foreign minister. Haaretz claims that Herzog is insisting his party be handed either the Communications or Justice Ministry. Meanwhile, Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon is quoted by Israel Radio news saying that Netanyahu is also negotiating with Yisrael Beitenu to join his government.