Moshe Ya’alon, Israel’s Minister of Defence, is a military man through and through, having risen from the ranks to become Head of Military Intelligence and later Chief of Staff of the Israel Defence Forces.
He has never minced his words. He vocally opposed the Gaza pullout (which I supported) and has been equally forthright in describing so-called “unauthorised” Jewish settlements in Samaria and Judea as perfectly legal, as do I.
It seems that for some considerable time Ya’alon has been in the habit of giving off-the-record press briefings on the subject of the so-called Israeli-Palestinian peace talks that are being orchestrated by US Secretary of State John Kerry.
A briefing which is off-the-record means that the source of the briefing should not be identified. But last week the Israeli paper Yediot Achronot, no doubt in order to make mischief, identified Ya’alon as having, in one such briefing, condemned Kerry’s peace plan as “not worth the paper it is printed on.” To make matters worse, Ya’alon was reported to have characterised Kerry’s approach as “inexplicably obsessive” and “messianic.” “All that can save us,” Ya’alon was quoted as having said, “is for John Kerry to win a Nobel Prize and leave us in peace.”
No sooner had the relevant edition of Yediot hit the news-stands than Ya’alon found himself on the receiving end of a series of vicious and spiteful admonitions, most notably from the State Department, over which Kerry presides, and from Tzipi Livni, who is leading the peace talks on the Israeli side.
Within a few hours — and, reportedly, following a dressing-down from Netanyahu himself — Ya’alon was forced to issue an apology of sorts. He had not, he said, meant “to cause any offence.” But he did not actually retract the criticisms he had somewhat indiscreetly made either about Kerry or about the American proposals Kerry is hawking around the Middle East — specifically that Israel should agree to evacuate its troops from the Jordan Valley and rely instead on electronic surveillance provided by the US government.
We need to be clear — as Ya’alon was in his briefing — that there are actually no “negotiations” between Israel and the Palestinians. Instead, Kerry and his aides busy themselves running from one side to the other. In order to get the Palestinians to agree even to this, Kerry has bullied the Israeli government into releasing scores of Palestinian convicts, many self-confessed murderers of Jews, who have been greeted as heroes by Mahmoud Abbas on their return to “Palestine.”
Abbas has offered and given absolutely nothing. Nothing at all. But we cannot accuse him of sailing under false colours.
Speaking in his Ramallah office on January 10, Abbas declared as follows: (a) “Occupied Jerusalem is the capital of the state of Palestine”; (b) “it is our right not to recognise Israel as a Jewish state”; (c) the Palestinian state must encompass the whole of the West Bank as captured by Israel in 1967; and (d) no one on the Palestinian side, not even Abbas himself, has the authority to negotiate away the rights of individual Palestinians to return to pre-1967 Israel should they so wish.
“Even a father, if he should request it [Abbas declaimed], cannot wave the right of his children, since the matter is an individual right.”
Since, on the Palestinian side, the individual “right of return” is fundamental, every one of you reading this column has to ask why Kerry is wasting so much of his valuable time talking to a man who has actually disqualified himself from having any authority or mandate in this regard. Unless, of course, Kerry is indeed “obsessive” and “messianic,” as Ya’alon claims he is.
Ya’alon may have spoken out of turn. But he spoke the truth. This soldier has performed many services for Israel. There is one more good deed he can do. He can, and should, resign from Netanyahu’s government and thereby free himself to lead a principled opposition to the bully-boys and girls in Washington and their apologists based in London and Jerusalem.