Ex-Israeli defense minister says he will run for prime minister

Marcy Oster

Outgoing Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon speaking at a press conference in which he announced his resignation from the Knesset, at the Kirya in Tel Aviv, May 20, 2016. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Moshe Yaalon speaking at a Tel Aviv news conference in which he announced his resignation from the Knesset, May 20, 2016. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Moshe Yaalon made it clear that he intends to run for prime minister of Israel less than a month after resigning as defense minister and from the Knesset.

“I intend to run for the leadership in Israel in the next elections,” Yaalon said Thursday during a speech at the annual Herzliya Conference.

Yaalon stepped down on May 20 when it came to light that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was in negotiations with Avigdor Liberman to bring his nationalist Yisrael Beiteinu party into the ruling coalition, giving Netanyahu a more stable majority. Liberman was named defense minister.

At the time of his resignation, Yaalon indicated that he would soon return to challenge Netanyahu for Israel’s leadership. The next national vote is scheduled for 2019, but could be held earlier.

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On Thursday, calling himself an “alternative” to the current leadership, Yaalon accused Netanyahu of fear mongering by attempting to scare Israeli citizens about security threats to distract them from Israel’s serious problems. Yaalon said the Iran nuclear threat does not signal an imminent existential threat during the period of the agreement signed between Iran and six world powers, and that “we have to prepare for future events.”

“At this time and in the foreseeable future, there is not existential threat to Israel. It is the strongest state in the region and there is an enormous gap with every country and organization stationed around it,” he said. “Therefore, it is appropriate for the leadership in Israel to cease scaring the citizens and to stop telling them that we are on the verge of a second Holocaust.”