Yaalon also criticized the government's decision to expand the barrier being built between the West Bank and Israel deep into Palestinian territory to encompass more Jewish settlements and cut off tens of thousands of Palestinians from their agricultural lands and families. The Finance Ministry estimated this week that the barrier would cost about $2.3 billion, more than three times the original estimate.
A civilian government official accused Yaalon of hypocrisy, alleging that the military commander carried out many of the orders that hampered Abbas without raising objections.
Lt. Gen. Moshe Yaalon told newspaper columnists this week that "we are operating contrary to our strategic interests" concerning the Palestinians.
(Pool Photo/Menahem Kahana Via AFP)
Some military analysts and officials also note that Yaalon has supported some of the armed forces' most controversial tactics in the Palestinian territories, including targeted killings. Human rights groups have criticized such killings because they impose a death sentence on a suspect without due process. In addition, bystanders are frequently killed in such operations.
Mofaz summoned Yaalon to his office for a reprimand on Wednesday, the day the Israeli newspapers printed their first accounts of his remarks, according to government officials familiar with the meeting. Although Yaalon was not identified by name in the news columns, which referred to him as a senior official, the army's chief spokeswoman, Brig. Gen. Ruth Yaron, monitored the meeting with the journalists, and defense officials did not try to hide the source of the story when Israeli radio and television identified the source as the chief of staff.
Two military officials said Mofaz ordered Yaalon to release a statement that said: "No uniformed officer has expressed criticism of the government. The articles reflect the fundamental deliberations and the discussions that take place in light of a complex situation. The IDF [Israel Defense Forces] is subordinate to the political echelon and carries out its orders precisely."
On Thursday, a military officer familiar with the dispute said that Yaalon "stands behind everything he said."
Mofaz's office did not respond to a request for comment.
Sharon's office made no official response to the controversy. The prime minister spent almost seven hours under interrogation Thursday by police investigators probing allegations of bribery and illegal campaign donations involving him and his two sons in his 1999 election campaign.
One military official said Yaalon expressed reservations about the government's treatment of Abbas, who was Palestinian prime minister from April 30 until Sept. 6, because his nominated successor, Ahmed Qureia, must decide next week whether he would accept the position. Yaalon and other military officials fear that if a second Palestinian government fails, the Palestinian Authority could disintegrate, creating chaos in the territories, the official said.