Israel’s plain-spoken Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon on Tuesday gave a wide-ranging assessment of security challenges facing Israel, reports The Jerusalem Post.
Speaking at the Herzliya Conference, Israel’s foremost annual global policy gathering, Ya’alon was skeptical of the recent Hamas-Fatah Palestinian unity government, stating that the new unity government would not contribute to the cause of peace, as some have suggested. He said that there is “zero percent chance that Hamas will accept the quartet conditions,” which include recognition of Israel.
He posited that the likely result of the unity deal is not that the Palestinian Authority will gain control of Gaza, but rather that Hamas will gain control of the West Bank, turning it into a security threat similar to that of Gaza.
Ya’alon argued more generally that the “land for peace” paradigm for solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has been a mistake which has brought Israel only “terror and rockets” in exchange for territorial concessions.
Ya’alon said that history has proven that the root of the conflict is not Israel’s presence over the pre-1967 lines, but rather the refusal of the Palestinians to recognize Israel’s right to exist.
He noted that in every attempt to solve the conflict including the recent failed negotiations, the Palestinians had refused to recognize Israel as the nation state of the Jewish people, had refused to give up the right of return and had refused to agree that a peace deal would put an end to all future Palestinian claims.
Ya’alon rejected as “nonsense,” claims that Israel was an apartheid state. He pointed out that Israel’s Arabs opposed leaving Israel for the Palestinian Authority, and that African workers came to the Jewish state by choice to work. He further rejected claims of apartheid by pointing out the stability enjoyed by Israel’s Arab Christian community as compared to the plight of Christians in the rest of the Middle East.
The defense minister spoke about Iran as the biggest threat to stability in the Middle East. “There is no conflict in the region that Iran is not involved in,” Ya’alon said, listing Syria, Bahrain and Iraq as examples of countries in which Iran was involved and causing instability. He said that Tehran was also supporting the Islamic Jihad in Gaza and Hezbollah in Lebanon.
He said that all of the terror threats against Israel, both within its borders and abroad, were directed by Iran. This, he said, was further proof that Israel’s problems with its neighbors were not based on territory.
Ya’alon, a former Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff, is a respected figure in Israel known for his forthrightness and unvarnished opinions. He is often mentioned as a future candidate for prime minister.