Israel's defence minister resigns amid spat with PM Netanyahu

Moshe Yaalon (right) at a Likud-Beiteinu party meeting at the Knesset, the Israeli parliament, on March 14, 2013.
Moshe Yaalon (right) at a Likud-Beiteinu party meeting at the Knesset, the Israeli parliament, on March 14, 2013. PHOTO: REUTERS

JERUSALEM (AFP) - Israeli Defence Minister Moshe Yaalon announced his resignation on Friday (May 20), after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu offered his post to hardliner Avigdor Lieberman to expand his governing coalition.

"I told the Prime Minister this morning that due to his conduct in recent developments, and in light of my lack of trust in him, I am resigning from the government and Knesset (parliament) and taking a break from political life," the former armed forces chief of staff said on Twitter.

Mr Yaalon's surprise resignation comes two days after former foreign minister Lieberman said he would be open to bringing his far-right Yisrael Beitenu party into Mr Netanyahu's coalition if a number of conditions were met, including being named defence minister.

Mr Yaalon had been at loggerheads with Mr Netanyahu over his insistence that senior officers be encouraged to "speak their mind". Reports said Netanyahu had been considering offering the retired lieutenant general the foreign ministry as a consolation, although the offer was never made.