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Chief Of Staff Lets Fly Hawkish Views

First Publish: 8/26/2002, 7:56 PM

IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Moshe Yaalon drew sharp criticism from left-wing personalities this morning after sharing his hawkish views of the current conflict with several hundred rabbinical leaders last night. Yaalon was the guest of honor at the annual convention of rabbis organized by Israel's Chief Rabbinate, but refused to start speaking until all journalists had left the room.

Deputy Defense Minister Veitzman Shiri (Labor) was one of those who criticized Yaalon. "I would expect the Chief of Staff to fulfill his own instructions," Shiri said, referring to Yaalon's recent directive to IDF offices not to express public criticism of government decisions. "He has more than enough closed forums in which he can express his opinions."

According to partial transcripts obtained by Maariv and Ynet, Yaalon said that the current Palestinian leadership does not recognize Israel's right to exist as a Jewish state and is trying to destroy Israel step-by-step. He said that the PA believes that terror will help it succeed in establishing a state, first in all of Yesha (Judea, Samaria and Gaza) and then in the rest of Israel. Therefore, Ya'alon said, "this confrontation obligates us to win in a manner that will engrave into the Palestinian consciousness that terror and violence have no chance of achieving them anything at all." He added that a unilateral Israeli withdrawal from Yesha would amount to a submission to terror.

Ya'alon had strong words against Israel's withdrawal from southern Lebanon in May 2000, saying that the Arabs looked to it as proof that Arab terrorism and violence can help demoralize Israeli society and force Israel to retreat. Yaalon said that this is not true, however, noting that Israel's successful Operation Defensive Shield proves that she is no "spider's web" - the metaphor used by Hizbullah leader Hassan Nasrallah in his "victory" speech following Israel's Lebanon withdrawal.

Environment Minister Tzachi HaNegbi, defending Yaalon this morning, said that the withdrawal from Lebanon is not even a controversial issue anymore: "It's a matter of public record that Nasrallah said a few days after the withdrawal from Lebanon, 'What's the matter with you Palestinians? It took only about 500 Hizbullah men to show that Israel is nothing more than a spider's web. Why can't you do the same?' It was known that Arafat took this very much to heart, and in fact only four months later, the Oslo War broke out…"

Chief of Staff Ya'alon also said he loses no sleep over the Iraqi threat, as he feels that Israel is ready to respond to any Iraqi missile attacks and that its decisive military response could put Saddam Hussein out of business. He said that the Palestinian danger is greater than that presented by Iraq.