It happened during one of Channel 10’s countless crises. The channel’s representatives trudged from minister to minister in search of someone who would dare to go to the Prime Minister and convince him not to close the organization down. I was not there, but from what I understand all the ministers were friendly and some of them explained excitedly how much they were helping the channel behind the scenes, really speaking to Netanyahu about it. Apparently the representatives also went in to speak with, among others, the Minister of Strategic Affairs at the time, Moshe “Boogie” Yaalon. The meeting lasted 7 minutes. Yaalon spoke very little and the assumption was that someone who wanted to be appointed Minister of Defense would not put his career on the line in order to fight with Netanyahu about something that was not directly relevant to him.
On Monday, the Ministerial Committee for Legislative Affairs convened to discuss the matter. The Minister of Communications, Moshe Kahlon, knew very well how to say behind closed doors that it was true stupidity not to forgive of one of the station’s debts. The issue was supposedly in his portfolio, but Kahlon was afraid of Netanyahu and did not want to argue with him about it. Then from out of left field, Yaalon released a statement fiercely attacking the intention not to comply with the channel’s request and even hinted at the inappropriate considerations behind such a refusal.
What is interesting is that Yaalon never tried to snag the credit for this. At least not to me. In those days, I was used to Members of Knesset whispering to me in the hallways that they, and they alone, had saved the channel (and my job). It is possible that the Minister of Defense is more sophisticated than them and he banked on the channel’s personnel remembering what he did without having to remind them – and it is clear he was right based on the fact that I am now writing about it. However, it is impossible to ignore the fact that in the arena of good governance, rule of law, and justice, Yaalon has a very impressive record. He does not waiver when court orders demand the evacuation of a settler outpost, he did not hesitate to speak out against the radical right, and he stood by President Rivlin and backed up the Shin Bet during the Duma murder investigations. If Prime Minister Netanyahu came out at all on any of these issues, he gave a delayed and muddled response, and so Yaalon looks like a shining beacon of light by comparison. He has toed a consistent line that might even – God forbid – be considered liberal. Yaalon supports LGBT rights, same-sex civil marriage, and even spoke out against the attacks on victims of sexual assault (in support of Yinon Magal’s accuser Racheli Rotner).
What is shocking is that when political commentators discuss the day after Netanyahu leaves power, if such a day ever comes, they do not even consider Boogie. Somehow Gideon Saar’s name comes up, and although it happens at an unbelievable frequency at Likud events, it is unclear what Saar brings to the table except for being anti-Bibi. Even the abysmal possibility that Israel Katz will succeed Netanyahu has been suggested (although mostly by Katz himself). Only Boogie’s name is absent.
Please do not misunderstand me: I am not a potential Boogie voter. I have not forgotten Boogie’s statements against the American government; I do not think he has much to show for “Protective Edge”; and his positions on “managing the conflict” seem to me to be a prescription for continued unrest. Yaalon said if we do not maintain a military presence in Judea and Samaria (the West Bank), then Hamas would take over the territory. Even assuming that prediction is correct, however, he does not explain how the presence of tens of thousands of settlers in those areas improves Israel’s security. Also, his behavior in the defense budget and Locker Commission episode is nothing to be proud of. Despite all of that, with Yaalon I know we will not need to engage in a detailed psychoanalysis of his wife, we will hardly remember his kids’ names, and I would guess that the National Fraud Unit will not ask to meet with him anytime soon. In the awful vacuum of leadership in which we live, when the Left or Center cannot really challenge Netanyahu, Yaalon at least has the potential for sane leadership on the Right.
Translated by Mr. Ari Heistein