Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon resigned Friday citing “extremist elements” in the Israeli government, referring to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who appointed Israeli right-wing politician Avigdor Lieberman as his replacement — a man who has previously called for the “beheading of disloyal” Arab citizens of Israel.
"To my great regret, I have recently found myself in difficult disputes over matters of principle and professionalism with the prime minister, a number of cabinet members and some lawmakers," a grim-faced Yaalon said in a televised statement at the defense headquarters in Tel Aviv.
"The State of Israel is patient and tolerant toward the weak among it and minorities ... But to my great regret extremist and dangerous elements have overrun Israel as well as the Likud party, shaking up the national home and threatening harm to those in it," he said, in a hint he might defect from the Likud Party.
Political sources say Netanyahu has offered long-time rival Lieberman the defense minister post. He leads the ultra-nationalist Yisrael Beiteinu party and has been described by some academics as a "far-right extremist".
Lieberman, who lives in an illegal settlement in the occupied West Bank, said of Arabs in Israel in a 2015 election campaign speech: "Those who are with us deserve everything. Those against us, it cannot be helped, we must lift up an axe and behead them - otherwise we will not survive here."
Meanwhile, Netanyahu rebuffed Yaalon's criticism and said the new appointment would lead to greater stability within Israel.
"The reshuffle in portfolios did not result from a crisis in faith between us. It resulted from the need to expand the government so as to bring stability to the State of Israel given the great challenges it faces," he said in a video statement Friday.