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Netanyahu in damage control mode as wave of coalition attacks against IDF brass continues

The opposition: Netanyahu said to little, too late

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends IDF 'Firm Hand' exercise at IDF Operational Headquarters, May 31, 2023 (Photo: Kobi Gideon/GPO)

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his camp appeared to be in full damage-control mode on Tuesday evening, as he put out another joint statement with Defense Minister Yoav Gallant in defense of the IDF.

“Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant are working together in close cooperation and give full backing to the IDF Chief-of-Staff and to the officers of the IDF in order to ensure the security of the state and its citizens.”

“The Prime Minister and the Defense Minister reject any attack on senior security establishment officials and fully back the commanders and soldiers of the IDF, who are working day and night for the security of Israel,” the statement read.

National Unity party chairman Benny Gantz laconically commented “Too little, too late.”

The director of the Prime Minister's Office, Yossi Shelly, on Wednesday morning also walked back dismissive comments he made against Air Force pilots the day before.

"As someone who greatly appreciates the Air Force pilots and IDF officers… I regret my statement which was perceived as belittling them and was out of place, and I am very sorry for that."

Gallant meanwhile continued in his role as the defender of the army against attacks by his coalition colleagues. Turning to them directly, he wrote on Twitter, “If you can’t hold back, attack me, the Defense Minister, I am in charge of the Chief of Staff and the Commander of the Air Force. Take the IDF out of the political discussion.”

This comes amid a wave of attacks by numerous coalition Knesset members, Likud members and Netanyahu’s son Yair against top IDF commanders for not acting strongly against reserve soldiers threatening to boycott volunteer duty in protest against the government’s judicial reform.

Yossi Shelly’s quick apology and the prime minister’s second statement in two days can be seen as part of efforts in Netanyahu’s camp to control the damage to the relationship between the government and the security establishment.

The change in tone might also have been influenced by recent media reports that the heads of Israel's defense establishment - the IDF, security, and intelligence agencies - each plan to release a public statement about the military's readiness.

During the last week, IDF commanders repeatedly made public statements questioning the IDF’s combat readiness due to the reserve soldiers’ boycott.

On Monday, Netanyahu put out a statement offering vague support for the IDF that was criticized in the media and by opposition members for not being worded strongly enough.

Accordingly, attacks against the IDF didn’t abate on Tuesday, as Likud member and minister in the Justice Ministry, David (Dudi) Amsalem, claimed that there is a “rebellion” in the army, which should be dealt with “the way that rebels should be dealt with.”

This prompted condemnations by President Isaac Herzog, who in a rare statement strongly condemned the recent “castigations against the IDF and its commanders,” as well as opposition leader and Yesh Atid party chairman Yair Lapid.

Lapid responded by implying that the real traitor was Amsalem, not the IDF commanders.

“The commanders of the IDF and its fighters are not rebels, they are wonderful Israeli patriots who keep us alive, but how would you call a minister whose life's mission is to divide the country, to inflame hatred, violence and racism, to corrupt the public apparatus by favoring cronies and leading us to fratricidal war? If this is not rebellion and treason, then what is?”

The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.

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