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Israeli defence minister resigns due to 'lack of trust' in Netanyahu

His resignation comes after media reports indicated Netanyahu had offered his post to Avigdor Lieberman
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (L) with then Defence Minister Moshe Yaalon (R) at the Horon army camp in the West Bank (AFP)

Israeli Defence Minister Moshe Yaalon announced his resignation on Friday due to a “lack of trust” in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who earlier this week offered his post to Avigdor Lieberman of the far-right Yisrael Beiteinu party.

Yaalon is a member of Netanyahu’s Likud party that has ruled in a fragile coalition with just a one-seat majority since last year.

"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.

He is expected to give a press conference later on Friday.

Yaalon's surprise resignation comes two days after former foreign minister Lieberman said he would be open to bringing his party into Netanyahu's coalition if several conditions were met, including being named defence minister and reintroducing the death penalty.

Negotiations are expected to resume again on Friday, with a new government lineup announced as early as the afternoon, Israeli daily Haaretz reported.

Netanyahu had also been in talks with the leader of the Labor Party Isaac Herzog, but those negotiations broke down when news leaked that Netanyahu was thinking of bringing Lieberman back into the fold in a move that Israeli media agrees would create the “most right-wing government” Israel has known.

Lieberman has served in previous coalitions with Netanyahu, but declined to join his coalition last year.

Yaalon had been at loggerheads with Netanyahu over his insistence made in a speech last week that senior officers be encouraged to "speak their mind".

On Thursday, he made public comments that he was "surprised" by a growing "loss of moral compass on basic questions" in Israeli society.

"We need to steer the country in accordance with one's conscience and not whichever way the wind is blowing," Yaalon said.

According to reports in Israeli press, Netanyahu called Yaalon on Thursday to tell him to ignore media speculation about Lieberman, insisting that nothing was set in stone, although it appears Yaalon decided to jump ship before he was pushed.

Earlier reports claimed that Netanyahu was considering offering the retired lieutenant general the foreign ministry as a consolation, but that the offer was never made.

Yaalon's resignation paves the way for right-wing activist Yehuda Glick to enter the Knesset as he is the next candidate on the Likud list that decides who becomes an MP.

Glick is a leading figure in the Temple Mount movement that seeks to have Jewish prayers in the al-Aqsa compound, with Palestinians scared the aim is to completely level Muslim holy sites to make way for a Jewish Third Temple that many believe was prophesied by scripture.  

The compound is under Jordanian control and non-Muslim prayers are strictly forbidden there, although growing numbers of Israelis have been skirting the rules in a move deemed highly inflammatory by Palestinians.

Glick survived an assassination attempt by a Palestinian assailant who was angered by his views on Temple Mount in 2014.  

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