Despite announcing they have "settled their differences," political officials said on Monday night there were still tensions between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon.
Netanyahu summoned Ya'alon for an urgent meeting on Monday morning to rebuke him after the defense minister on Sunday encouraged top military generals to continue speaking their mind in public, even if their comments contradict government sentiments.
The Prime Minister's Office viewed Ya'alon's comments as criticism of Netanyahu and other senior ministers who slammed comments made by IDF deputy chief, Maj.-Gen. Yair Golan, who compared recent trends in Israeli society to the atmosphere in Nazi-era Germany. Netanyahu called Golan's statement, made in a speech marking Holocaust Remembrance Day, "outrageous," while Ya'alon supported the general's right to speak.
The meeting at the prime minister's official residence in Jerusalem began at 9am Monday morning. According to political officials, the tense atmosphere soon eased as the two began to exchange clarifications.
According to these officials, Netanyahu believes that Ya'alon is trying to create the impression that he is the only one among the senior Likud members to defend and support the IDF and is laying down the groundwork to unseat Netanyahu in a future run for the party leadership.
But Ya'alon, who went through the text of his speech with Netanyahu during their meeting, stressed that he was not referring to Golan's comments, but rather to the controversy over Sgt. Elor Azaria, who was charged with manslaughter after shooting dead and already-neutralized terrorist in Hebron. Ya'alon told the prime minister that he was not trying to encourage IDF officers to come out against the political echelon.
And so the two set out to word a joint statement declaring the issue resolved. "Prime Minister Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ya'alon met Monday morning and have settled their differences," the statement said. "There is no objection and there has been no objection that the IDF is subject to the political leadership, and that IDF officers are free to say their opinions in relevant forums."
But political officials said that while this issue has been resolved, the relations between Netanyahu and Ya'alon are far from being good. "This isn't a Sulha (reconciliation ceremony—ed.)," the officials said. "This issue has been resolved, but they didn't agree to turn over a new leaf, and the tensions between them remain."
The mistrust between the two sides was evident on Monday when, while the meeting itself had ended at 10am, the arguments over the wording of the joint statement continued until 1pm. During that time, a rumor began to take flight that Netanyahu had fired Ya'alon.