JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday fired a deputy defense minister after he publicly criticized government decisions during Israel’s week-long battle with Islamist militants in the Gaza Strip.
Netanyahu is under mounting pressure from right-wing members of his coalition government to broaden the military offensive against the ruling Hamas in Gaza, including calls to send in ground troops.
Danny Danon, a young member of Netanyahu’s Likud party, on Tuesday attacked a decision to accept an Egyptian-proposed ceasefire, saying: “Once again Hamas is setting the tone for this operation. We must retake the initiative and correct the mistake made in this morning’s cabinet meeting.”
Hamas did not accept the ceasefire terms, and the fighting has continued.
Officials said Danon had long been sidelined by Defence Minister Moshe Yaalon. He had been given his position in what political analysts said was a bid to mollify party rivals.
In May, after Danon wrote an article critical of U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, Israel’s ambassador to Washington took the unusual step of putting out a statement saying Danon’s views “do not reflect the views of the Government of Israel”.
Netanyahu said he fired Danon because his comments showed a “great degree of irresponsibility” at the height of a military campaign.
“In light of these declarations that express a lack of confidence in the government and its leader, personally ... I have decided to remove him from his post,” Netanyahu said, according to a statement from his office.
Following his removal, Danon again criticized Netanyahu, writing on Facebook that the Israeli leader had been taking a weak line diplomatically over the past year.
Reporting by Ari Rabinovitch; editing by Andrew Roche