Israel’s Vice Prime Minister and Minister of Strategic Affairs, Moshe Ya’alon, gave a special interview to Arutz Sheva on Wednesday for Rosh Hashanah. During the interview Ya’alon summed up last week’s events in the United Nations and said that Israel should not conduct negotiations with the Palestinian Authority as long as its current leadership remains the same.
Arutz Sheva: One can summarize the events at the UN and say that you are quite satisfied with Netanyahu’s speech.
Ya’alon: We’re satisfied not just with Netanyahu’s speech but also by the Palestinians’ failure to make their unilateral move. The Palestinians have been consistently avoiding negotiations since the dawn of Zionism. It was seen in Arafat’s response to Barak’s offer in 2000, it was seen when Abbas avoided Olmert’s offer in 2008, and now Abbas is avoiding negotiations by going to the United Nations unilaterally. We are also satisfied by the fact that all these threats and scenarios of a tsunami, international isolation and an intifada did not come true, and the move appears to be a failure.
Is it indeed a failure? They are going to the Security Council and promoting it there. We’re relying on an American veto. It’s not exactly a failure.
Unfortunately in the United Nations, with us being the only Jewish state alongside 22 Arab countries and more than 50 Muslim countries, there is no place to look for justice, and yet the Palestinians have no majority in the Security Council to pass their application. There is an important American stance here which is going to veto, a stance which, by the way, was changed due to Israel’s actions, and now the U.S. is in the same position as us, that the unilateral move is unacceptable and will bring about a second Hamastan. We need to see Obama’s speech as a significant process of change since he took office.
How much will we have to pay politically for this embrace? We already heard Netanyahu saying in the United States that he is willing to talk about freezing construction.
We talk about entering negotiations without preconditions and say that we are ready to talk about everything, but the fundamental questions we raised were answered with a resounding ‘no,’ for example of a future consent, not a condition for beginning negotiations, to recognize Israel as a Jewish nation, and we were told that it will never happen. So what can we talk about? Abbas is asking what will happen with the Arabs of 1948 and what will happen with the ‘right of return.’ Barak revealed the face of Arafat, Olmert revealed the face of Abbas even though he and Livni claim that the process was stopped because of the elections, which is a lie. With our demand for recognition we exposed Abbas’ true face and we did it without it even costing us a political price.
As someone who knows the PA’s internal dialogue very well, do you believe that there is one PA leader who could accept this demand and stay alive?
If that’s the situation then we would be better off not to ignore it or sweep it under the rug. It has been my contention ever since I was head of Military Intelligence in 1995, when I realized that even in Oslo they did not recognize Israel’s right to exist within borders of any kind, and that the entire move was meant to be a Trojan horse that will allow them to enter ‘Palestine’. It is good that the people of Israel know this and not fool themselves. One of the worst things that happened to us is that we adopted their narrative and we covered up the fact that never have they had a leadership that was willing to recognize Israel’s right to exist.
So this demand for recognition is only to expose their faces? It’s not a real requirement for negotiations?
This is a genuine and basic demand, because without it any agreement we sign would be just another stage in the conflict. People ask why we did not demand this from the Egyptians and the Jordanians and the answer is simple: because they have no claim on Sheikh Munis, Haifa, Akko and Ashkelon. In contrast, the Palestinians view Israeli Arabs as being part of them so they are not prepared to see a return to 1949 armistice lines as an end to the conflict.
Do you believe that there is some sort of outline of an agreement that ensures the Palestinian state will be demilitarized and that Hamas would not take over it the next day?
We’re not there yet, because of their lack of willingness to recognize us. After all, in his speech Abbas denied the connection of the Jews to their land. He spoke only of the Muslim and Christian connection to Israel. He argues that there is no Jewish nation. Does anyone think we can sign an agreement with them when their young generation is brought up according to such perceptions?
It appears from what you are saying that you do not really believe there are any prospects to these negotiations.
In this situation facing this leadership there definitely are no prospects, and it’s better that all of us know this. It’s important that an Israeli majority that recognizes reality take shape, without illusions of peace now or disengagement. When we are united, the world opinion will be with us.
The left and the world say that the Netanyahu government has a credibility problem. Maybe they’re right, because here you are proving how little chance such negotiations have and yet you’re still talking about the vision of two states.
We say that we do not want to rule over them. They have political independence and we are ready to strengthen it in those areas for which they are responsible, but if they do not respect our right to exist, why should we start talking with them about territory? We are ready to have them conduct their lives in their area of autonomy.
And given all this, when will the Likud government fulfill its nationalist platform and finally build after so many years in Judea and Samaria?
Because of the sensitivity of the situation which we received, of political processes that previous governments conducted, we have been cautious. We had to accept commitments of previous governments, including a commitment not to establish new Jewish communities, but insisted on continuing construction. So there are periods of sensitivity but construction continues and the number of residents in Judea and Samaria is growing.
Before the events at the UN there was talk of the possibility of annexing Judea and Samaria as a response to the PA’s move. Is it feasible?
There is no doubt that the Palestinians going to the UN is a gross violation of the Oslo Accords. We held discussions about the possibilities that lie in our hands in response to this move. We are considering our options. We will hold discussions with the Prime Minister about both the Quartet’s offer as well as the Palestinian move on and make our decisions.
As a member of the ministerial team on Migron, do you know what exactly happened that night of the destruction, and why?
It was clear that the three homes were built without permits. Minister Begin and I were in talks with the residents of the community about some ways to deal with the problem. Unfortunately, we were surprised with a move that was decided by the defense minister. The issue is being clarified among the ministers and the prime minister and the defense minister. I hope that lessons can be learned from that incident, too.
Thank you very much.
Thank you, and I wish to take this opportunity to wish you and all the people of Israel a Shana Tova, a good new year.
(Arutz Sheva’s North American Desk is keeping you updated until the start of Rosh Hashanah in New York. The time posted automatically on all Arutz Sheva articles, however, is Israeli time.)