Ya’alon launches scathing assault on US policy in the ME

TOI Staff

Yaalon1While apparently trying to be polite and stressing that he was delivering his critiques “without naming anyone,” Israel’s Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon launched what amounted to a scathing assessment of Obama Administration wrongheadedness on the Middle East in an extraordinary interview at the end of his trip to the United States.

In comments that were candid even by his characteristically no-nonsense standards, Ya’alon castigated the misconception — most recently voiced by Secretary of State John Kerry – that the failure to solve the Palestinian conflict was provoking extremism elsewhere in the region. He rejected the notion — at the core of Kerry’s failed peace efforts — that territorial concessions by Israel would resolve the Palestinian conflict, calling it “irrational.” And he dismissed the idea — central to the vision of this and other recent US administrations — that Palestinian Authority President is a partner for peace.

He also attacked the notion — accepted by the Obama administration — that a deal should be done with Iran that would leave it with a uranium enrichment capability.

More broadly speaking, asked whether the West “just doesn’t get it” in the Middle East, Ya’alon listed what he said were the misconceptions, misunderstandings, naivete, wishful thinking and ignorance that left the West thinking erroneously, “We the Westerners know what is good for the Arabs.” The product of this kind of mindset, which had falsely contended that mere elections in the region would yield democratization, Ya’alon said bitterly, “is collapsing in front of us.”

The Likud defense minister delivered his onslaught in the course of a relatively brief Question & Answer interview with the Washington Post, published at the end of his visit to DC this week — a visit during which, US officials were quoted confirming at the weekend, his requests to meet with Kerry, Vice President Joe Biden and other senior officials were rebuffed by the administration — apparently in punishment for previous critiques aired by Ya’alon and other senior Israeli government ministers.

John Kerry, right, meeting with Moshe Ya'alon in Jerusalem in May, 2013. (photo credit: US State Department)

John Kerry, right, meeting with Moshe Ya’alon in Jerusalem in May, 2013. (photo credit: US State Department)

Nonetheless, Ya’alon did stress in the interview that the Pentagon and the Israel Defense Forces still share an unbreakable bond — he held talks with Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel on Tuesday — and that the US and Israel remain strategic allies despite any disagreements that arise between the nations’ leaders. The politicians “have disputes,” he allowed. But “with all the disputes, the United States is Israel’s strategic ally.”

On the Palestinian front, Ya’alon said thinking was “dominated by too many misconceptions. We don’t find any linkage between the uprising in Tunisia, the revolution in Egypt, the sectarian conflict in Iraq and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Mainly, these come from the Sunni-Shia conflict, without any connection to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The core of the conflict is their reluctance to recognize our right to exist as a nation state of the Jewish people…”

Elaborating, he said: “There are many who believe that just having some territorial concessions will conclude it. But I don’t think this is right… The conflict is about the existence of the Jewish state and not about the creation of the Palestinian one. Any territory that was delivered to them after Oslo became a safe haven for terrorists. Bearing that in mind, to conclude that after the [recent] military operation in Gaza this is a time for another withdrawal from Judea and Samaria [the West Bank] is irrational. If we withdraw now from Judea and Samaria, we might face another Hamastan.”

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas speaks during a meeting of the Fatah revolutionary council in the West Bank city of Ramallah, Saturday, Oct. 18, 2014. (photo credit: AP Photo/Majdi Mohammed)
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas speaks during a meeting of the Fatah revolutionary council in the West Bank city of Ramallah, Saturday, Oct. 18, 2014. (photo credit: AP Photo/Majdi Mohammed)

Ya’alon reiterated his familiar opposition to full Palestinian statehood, saying the Palestinians would be limited to a demilitarized “autonomy,” and flatly dismissed Abbas as “not a partner for the two-state solution. He doesn’t recognize the existence of the Jewish state.” Abbas’s stance against violence “is a tactical consideration,” Ya’alon declared. “He believes he might get more by what he calls ‘political resistance’ — going to the United Nations or to international bodies to delegitimize us. He prefers it to violence because in his experience, terror doesn’t pay off.”

Asked directly if this was “why you said Secretary Kerry should just get a Nobel Prize and go home? Do you think the West just doesn’t get it?” Ya’alon replied: “I spoke about misconceptions. It is a misunderstanding, without naming anyone. It might be naivete or wishful thinking — ‘We the Westerners know what is good for the Arabs.’ To believe that you can have democratization with elections .?.?. it is collapsing in front of us. And part of it is ignorance, yes.”

US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel (L) welcomes Israeli Defense Moshe Ya'alon (R) at the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia October 21, 2014. (photo credit: Alex Wong/Getty Images/AFP)
US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel (L) welcomes Israeli Defense Moshe Ya’alon (R) at the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia October 21, 2014. (photo credit: Alex Wong/Getty Images/AFP)

Ya’alon also discussed Iran’s nuclear program, and the deal that may be taking shape ostensibly to rein it in. “The framework of this deal is about how many centrifuges should this regime have,” Ya’alon carped. “Why should they have the indigenous capability to enrich uranium? If they need it for civilian purposes, they can get enriched uranium from the United States or from Russia. Why do they insist on having the indigenous capability? Because they still have the aspiration to have a nuclear bomb. With a bad deal — saying, ‘We will keep this regime from having a bomb for a year or year and a half’ — what does that mean?”

He went on: “What about the missile delivery systems, which are not discussed? Why should they have missiles ready to adopt nuclear warheads?… And what about their being a rogue regime instigating terror all over the Middle East and beyond? They are not involved in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria or Yemen to serve American interests. This is not discussed. By rehabilitating the economy, they might feel confident to go on with these rogue activities, and at a certain point decide to break out from the deal and to have a bomb. That’s why our prime minister said that no deal is better than a bad deal.”

Ya’alon met in Washington this week with Hagel and US Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power, but US officials said the White House and State Department rejected requests for meetings with Biden, Kerry, and national security adviser Susan Rice. The administration also sought to stop Ya’alon from seeing Power but the objections were made too late to cancel the meeting, according to US officials quoted in US and Israeli media.

The White House and State Department declined to comment on internal deliberations about who Ya’alon should see. At the State Department, spokeswoman Jen Psaki noted that the Ya’alon’s meeting with his counterpart Hagel was “a natural, standard procedure.”

Ehud Barak, left, meeting with Barack Obama in December 2011. (photo credit: Official White House/Pete Souza/Flash90)
Then-defense minister Ehud Barak meeting with President Barack Obama in December 2011. (photo credit: Official White House/Pete Souza/Flash90)

Visiting Israeli defense ministers, including Ya’alon’s immediate predecessor Ehud Barak, have in the past routinely been granted meetings with senior US officials other than their direct counterparts. This week’s refusals came amid increasingly strained US-Israel relations, particularly over criticism of Kerry by several members of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s cabinet, including Ya’alon.

Earlier this year, Ya’alon infuriated officials in Washington with comments accusing the administration of being weak on Iran and questioning the US commitment to Israel’s security. That followed reports that Ya’alon had criticized Kerry for being unrealistic and messianic in trying to forge an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal, and that the defense minister had dismissed Kerry’s West Bank security proposals as unworkable.

AP, Joshua Davidovich, and Adiv Sterman contributed to this report.

 

October 26, 2014 | 17 Comments »

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  1. Keep Kerry out of Israel until his sees and recognizes “the Light to the Nations”. He has been an under-performer and a trouble maker.

  2. Article about a great Zionist who has lived it fully in Israel’s service. Ya’alon was drafted into the IDF in 1968 and served in the Nahal Infantry Brigade, until his discharge in 1971. He served as a reserve paratrooper during the 1973 Yom Kippur War and fought on the Suez front.

    Ya’alon returned to active service after the war, completed officer’s training school and commanded units in the Paratroopers Brigade, as well as the elite special forces unit Sayeret Matkal, where he led the 1978 Litani operation and fought in Operation Peace for Galilee. He rose to become deputy commander of the IDF Paratroopers Brigade. He was wounded in Lebanon near the end of his term. http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4369335,00.html

  3. Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon

    Ynetnews
    Published: 04.18.13, 13:12 / Israel News

    Moshe Ya’alon, Israel’s current defense minister, served as IDF chief of staff from 2002 to 2005. Ya’alon was born as Moshe Smilansky on June 24, 1950 in Kiryat Haim, a working class suburb of Haifa. In his youth, he became active in the Labor Zionist movement and joined a pioneer group named Ya’alon, which he would later adopt as his name.

    Ya’alon was drafted into the IDF in 1968 and served in the Nahal Infantry Brigade, until his discharge in 1971. He served as a reserve paratrooper during the 1973 Yom Kippur War and fought on the Suez front.

    Ya’alon returned to active service after the war, completed officer’s training school and commanded units in the Paratroopers Brigade, as well as the elite special forces unit Sayeret Matkal, where he led the 1978 Litani operation and fought in Operation Peace for Galilee. He rose to become deputy commander of the IDF Paratroopers Brigade. He was wounded in Lebanon near the end of his term.

    Ya’alon (L) with IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz (Photo: Ido Erez)
    Ya’alon (L) with IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz (Photo: Ido Erez)

    In 1986, General Ya’alon left the army to pursue advanced studies at the command and staff college in Camberly, England. When he returned to Israel, he became commander of Sayeret Matkal.

    Ya’alon, who has a bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of Haifa, was appointed head of Military Intelligence in 1995 and commanding officer of Israel’s Central Command, responsible for the West Bank, in 1998. He was serving in this position when the second intifada was launched in September 2000.

    On September 15, 2000, General Ya’alon was appointed IDF deputy chief of staff, and on July 9, 2002, he was promoted to the rank of lieutenant-general and appointed the 17th IDF chief of staff, a position he held until June 1, 2005.

    Ya’alon tours IDF position in Golan Heights (Photo: Avihu Shapira)
    Ya’alon tours IDF position in Golan Heights (Photo: Avihu Shapira)

    After leaving his position as chief of staff, Ya’alon spent time at the think tank Washington Institute for Near East Policy and became a senior fellow at the Adelson Institute for Strategic Studies at the Shalem Center Institute for International and Middle East Studies. Ya’alon also served as the chairman of the Center for Jewish Identity and Culture at Beit Morasha in Jerusalem.

    On November 17, 2008, Ya’alon announced he was joining Likud and that he would participate in the primaries, which would determine the Likud candidates for the 2009 elections. He won eighth place on the party’s list and entered the Knesset as Likud won 27 seats. Upon the formation of the Netanyahu government, he was appointed vice prime minister and minister of strategic affairs.

    Ya’alon was reelected to the Knesset in January 2013 again on the Likud ticket, and on March 2013 he replaced Ehud Barak as defense minister.

    Ya’alon’s public statements have often been controversial. On 27 August 2002 he said: “The Palestinian threat harbors cancer-like attributes that have to be severed. There are all kinds of solutions to cancer. Some say it’s necessary to amputate organs but at the moment I am applying chemotherapy.”

    In 2009, during a conference of Jewish Leadership activists, Ya’alon said: “We again are dealing with the issue of the virus, Peace Now – the elitists, if you may – who have incurred great damage. From my perspective, Jews can and need to live in all of the Land of Israel for all eternity.”

    Later, after meeting with PM Netanyahu, Ya’alon retracted parts of his statement and said that he “recognized the importance of democratic discourse and respecting other opinions.” He stressed, however, the need to accept the fact that peace won’t come immediately. Ya’alon stated that, in his view, the way of thinking that Israel only needs to give up one more piece of land and then it will have peace is a kind of “virus.”

    As for the Iranian nuclear threat, the defense minister said during a speech on the occasion of Israel’s 65th anniversary that Israel must prepare for the possibility of striking the Islamic Republic’s nuclear facilities on its own, adding that he was unimpressed with the West’s steps against Iran’s nuclear program.

    Ya’alon is married and has three children.

    http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4369335,00.html

  4. @ bernard ross:

    We will see after the elections. Usually mid term elections are about local politics not national or even international.

    Democrats outnumber Republicans by a lot. Still independents and getting out the vote will determine results.

    What ever the results Obama will seek retribution after the elections for sure.

  5. the obama admin is already mired in scandal and failure and the dems seek to disassociate for the mid term election. Yaalon provided just a couple of more reasons why one should vote for the opposition wrt Israel in congressional elections even if one is a leftist domestically. Furthermore, for the general US public it is just a couple of more examples screaming incompetency and failure on the ME AND on Iran. All these issues are imminent. If the GOP can win the senate or even show increases in the house it will be more difficult for obama to buck democrats demands to lower his anti Israel profile for 2016 big elections. Also, Yaalon is giving congress support for their attempts to rein in Obama on his unilateral attempt to bypass them on Iran. He is saying that not only is Obama operating unconstitutionally as they are alleging but that he is acting incompetently and dangerously.

    I think Yaalons comments were an orchestrated message to the US public and to Congress timed just before the election.

  6. Egypt cancels Hamas-Israel talks following Sinai attack
    Cairo bars Islamist delegation, points finger at Palestinians for deadly bombings; ‘Stop blaming Gaza, you failed leaders,’ Hamas chief retorts

    Read more: Egypt cancels Hamas-Israel talks following Sinai attack | The Times of Israel http://www.timesofisrael.com/egypt-suspends-hamas-israel-talks-following-sinai-attack/#ixzz3HGc3S6RI
    Follow us: @timesofisrael on Twitter | timesofisrael on Facebook

    Looks like Hamas plan backfired, like their ceasfires pressuring for a better deal I think Hamas, as it did on the mount, arranged the Israeli and egyptian attacks in the hope that the EU would pressure for faster progress and give them a better deal. Looks like their plan backfired and they will have to wait even longer, stewing in the juices of their pissed off subjects.

  7. Bear Klein Said:

    Any territory that was delivered to them after Oslo became a safe haven for terrorists.

    And even if it didn’t become a safe haven for terrorists and even if the Palis were Tzadiks and as peaceful as say Canadians I would not cede an inch or a grain of sand to them.

    Because it’s ours and not theirs….That is the most ethical and rational reason I can think of. What country cedes their land, their history and their heritage as blackmail and over threats? If they want it so bad come and take it by force…!!!!!!

    These security excuses for us holding the land may be true but it’s not the reason. The main reason is : It doesn’t belong to them….!!!!!!!!

    Ya’alon is an idiot and a product of un-Jewsih ideas and principles…. He is a product of the Kibbutz mentality and you can’t get much more un-Jewish than they are….

    Security??? What security can Israel have surrounded by 300 million Arabs? What security can Israel have with a 9 mile border from the green line to the sea? Not even 20 miles of some 45 miles from the Jordan to the Sea affords security.

    A third of our population is Arab and many more of them with access to Israel and Jews? Security in any form within the current borders without division of the land is an oxymoron..

    Any politician or pseudo lying military expert who says we can live in security in any mix of combinations with the current facts and realities of our geography and demography is a liar, a fool or a knave.

    Ya’alon seems to fit all three.

  8. Why does anyone expect that a net product of the combina would be any different? Mr. Rivlin has his job scripted beforehand. So would be anyone fished out from that pond.

  9. And while some fragile backbone seems to be forming, albeit in a very early embryonic phase…

    Rivlin the first president to speak at a memorial ceremony for the 1956 massacre, which saw Border Police shoot 48 Arabs dead.

    http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/186602

    What THE HELL is this obsession to be oh,…. so righteous????
    This is a self imposed double standard if there has ever been one!
    Some 48 araboids were killed .
    Ok.
    SO, W.H.A.T.?????
    As an american bitch said it so eloquently, “what difference does it make now?”
    ENOUGH, with this BS!
    The late rabbi kahane said it so beautifully… He does not want to see them killed, so THEY MUST GO!!!

  10. Ya’alon as is his norm speaks the blunt truth clearly and unabiguously!

    The conflict is about the existence of the Jewish state and not about the creation of the Palestinian one. Any territory that was delivered to them after Oslo became a safe haven for terrorists.

  11. Ya’alon speaks for Netanyahu. I think to a great extent since the summer, Israel’s view of the risks it can take in the Middle East have significantly changed.

    Not just with the summer Gaza war with Hamas but also with ISIS’ rapid takeover of much of the northern and central Middle East without much resistance.

    Israel has come to appreciate the fragility and unreliability of Arab regimes and basing any peace agreement on the assumption such regimes would last forever – is now seen in Jerusalem as a fools’ errand.

    Plus there is there the nuclear threat from Iran, there is Hezbollah in Lebanon and the continued jihadist turmoil in the Egyptian Sinai.

    In a word, there is no political space for Israel to make any kind of far-reaching concessions in the future. What was possible last year is now off the table. In other words, while the political-strategic environment Israel lived in for the past twenty years is rapidly disintegrating around it, the West has made no such adjustment to its blinkered view of the Middle East.

    The West can afford to be blase about the future of the region. Israel on the other hand, simply cannot afford to look away from what is going on there.

    The US’ contemptuous treatment of Ya’alon will not change at all the fact that what Israel could do before is now more or less unattainable under the present circumstances.

  12. I must say that I like his words of late. My problem is that I do not trust any of them. Perhaps electioneering….
    BTW. Again HAMAS has fired rockets said the IDF, “into the sea”… False alarms?