Israel’s former top soldier and defence minister laid out why he should be the country’s next prime minister in London this week, as he slammed Benjamin Netanyahu for “seeking to control the media” and “generating hatred”.

General Moshe Ya’alon, in the UK for a Zionist Federation dinner, later took aim at the current Israeli coalition, which he said was “dominated by extremists” who were “attacking the Supreme Court” and threatening the rule of law.

In an interview with Jewish News, he said: “Ministers, Members of the Knesset, the prime minister, yes he is doing it… Not allowing public media but controlling the media. It’s unbelievable to me. It’s against democracy.”

Ya’alon was reacting to Israeli media reports this weekend that Netanyahu had threatened to call an election unless plans to create a new public-service broadcaster were abandoned, and said it was part of a pattern.

“The Supreme Court should be respected by the Jewish Home party, and the Likud [but] the Supreme Court is being attacked. It’s all the new nominations of the judges. They are going to judge according to the law but the fact that the Supreme Court is not respected meaning that we do not respect the rule of law.”

Moshe Ya'alon speaking at the ZF dinner (Credit: Steve Winston)

Moshe Ya’alon speaking at the ZF dinner (Credit: Steve Winston)

Ya’alon resigned from Netanyahu’s government last year after an Israeli soldier was filmed shooting a wounded Palestinian attacker in the head. Ya’alon said the soldier’s actions “completely contradicts IDF values and its battle ethics” but Netanyahu argued for a pardon, calling the family in sympathy before the trial.

“To offend the Supreme Court, not to respect the rule of law, to generate hatred against the different sectors in Israeli society – against the Arabs, against the leftists… It’s ignoring Jewish values,” said Ya’alon.

Alluding to the soldier’s case, he added: “When it comes to keeping Israel Jewish, meaning keeping our morals, first is the sanctity of life. I had a couple of disputes about this with the current coalition.”

Ya’alon recently quit the Likud party and announced that he was forming his own political party to challenge Netanyahu, about whom he may have been referring when he spoke of Israel’s leaders needing to “navigate by the [moral] compass, not by the number of Facebook likes”.

Referring to a recent Israeli law retroactively legalising dozens of illegal Jewish settlements built on privately-owned Palestinian land, he asked: “Can you confiscate private land from someone – Arab, Israeli, whatever – then deliver it to someone else? No way. It’s going to be a chaotic situation. It’s not going to be approved by the Attorney-General, nor by the Supreme Court, but the coalition voted for it. The only one who voted against it was Benny Begin. So what – he’s leftist?”

Moshe Ya'alon speaking at the ZF annual dinner (Credit: Yiftah Curiel on Twitter)

Moshe Ya’alon speaking at the ZF annual dinner (Credit: Yiftah Curiel on Twitter)

Ya’alon said that while he was a “hawk” on security and defence, he supported Palestinian “autonomy” in the West Bank, and advocated greater inclusion of Arabs into Israeli society, such as by participating in national service as a substitute to serving in the IDF.

“We started in 2007,” he said. “We had more Arabs appealing to serve in the national service than we had jobs. This is the best way to integrate. It’s a great change for the integration of Israeli Arabs in Israeli society.

“President Rivlin has called for this. Is he leftist? This is [Ze’ev] Jabotinski’s way. Today, the atmosphere is not to allow Arabs to be integrated into Israeli society and to generate hatred by the prime minister, defence minister, education minister – how come? This is against our values as a Jewish and democratic state.”