Israel defence minister resigns

  • 20/05/2016
Israel defence minister resigns

Israel's Defence Minister Moshe Yaalon has announced his resignation, citing a lack of faith in the Prime Minister after Benjamin Netanyahu proposed replacing him as part of a move to expand the coalition government.

Political sources say Netanyahu offered ultra-nationalist politician Avigdor Lieberman on Wednesday the defence portfolio, a post crucial for a country on a perennial war footing and which also runs civil affairs in the occupied West Bank, where Palestinians struggling for statehood live in friction with Jewish settlers.

"I informed the PM that after his conduct and recent developments, and given the lack of faith in him, I am resigning from the Government and Parliament and taking a break from political life," Defence Minister Moshe Yaalon said on Twitter on Friday.

Yaalon's exit could put a new dent in domestic and Western confidence in the Netanyahu government.

A former chief of Israel's armed forces, Yaalon had shored up relations with the Pentagon that provided a counter-weight to Netanyahu's policy feuds with US President Barack Obama over peace talks with the Palestinians and Iran's nuclear program.

By contrast, Lieberman -- whose appointment has not been confirmed -- is inexperienced militarily and known for his past hawkish talk against Palestinians, Israel's Arab minority and Egypt -- a key regional security partner for Israel.

Netanyahu's office did not immediately respond to Yaalon's resignation announcement.

The Prime Minister's offer of Yaalon's cabinet post to Lieberman emerged this week after talks on bringing centre-left opposition leader Isaac Herzog into the Government failed.

The inclusion of Lieberman's Yisrael Beitenu party in the coalition, which has also yet to be confirmed, would give Netanyahu's Likud party control over 67 of Parliament's 120 seats, up from the current razor-thin majority of 61.