Lieberman steps down as defense minister
Lieberman resigned as Israel’s defense minister on Wednesday, Nov. 14 after being isolated by the prime minister and army chiefs on government Gaza policy.
He called for new elections, meaning that his Yisrael Beitenu party is quitting the government coalition.
Speculation that Avigdor Lieberman was about to resign as defense minister was rife on Wednesday, Nov. 14, after he was isolated by the prime minister and army chiefs on Gaza policy.
The rumor gained momentum after Lieberman scheduled a news conference for 1 pm Wednesday, Nov. 14, the day after he and three other ministers objected to the security cabinet’s decision to accept a ceasefire with Hamas, after nearly 500 rockets were fired into Israel in 24 hours.
Lieberman advocated intensified punishment for the Palestinian terrorist organizations led by Hamas and Islamic Jihad and objected to giving them a breather.
His situation worsened upon discovering that Netanyahu and the army chiefs had already decided that Israel could not afford to take on Hamas and the pressing threat from the North at the same time, and therefore Israel must accept Egyptian and UN efforts for a ceasefire. While cabinet ministers were discussing the Gaza issue, Netanyahu was running a parallel diplomatic track with international and Arab contacts outside the room.
That is why the critical cabinet session ended with a vague communique: “IDF attacks on Gaza will continue as required.”
The defense minister and his other cabinet members had the sense that the prime minister had cast them in the role of film extras while pursuing the real action, totally at odds with his views, somewhere else. He had moreover cut the defense minister off from the military chiefs over whom he had charge.
Lieberman is the third defense minister to opt out of a government led by Netanyahu. His predecessors, Ehud Barak and Moshe Ya’alon, have become the prime minister’s bitterest critics.
Netanyahu will need to appoint a new defense minister without delay, given the urgent security challenges confronting the country. Education Minister Naftali Bennett is pushing for the job. Rather than a cabinet shakeup, he may call a snap general election and meanwhile appoint a temporary stand-in as minister of defense.