Israel’s defense minister on Tuesday mirrored contentious remarks made by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the run-up to national elections in March, cautioning against the notion of a Palestinian state in the West Bank and stating that he did not foresee such a development in his lifetime.
Moshe Ya’alon, 64, warned that even without territorial concessions, if Israel were to keep its security forces from acting in the West Bank, the survival of the neighboring monarchy in Jordan would be called into question.
Referencing US President Barack Obama’s recent interview on Israel’s Channel 2, in which Obama said he did not foresee an end-of-claims agreement between Israel and the Palestinians during his final year in office, Ya’alon declared, “Some say not in the next year, some say not during their term, but I, to my dismay, with my vast experience…I do not see a stable settlement during the period of my life, and I plan to live a bit more.”
Ya’alon, who spoke from the podium at the Herzliya 2015 security conference, called instead for “a realistic modus vivendi” not rooted in “impossible goals that could cause instability.”
The remarks come after the high-profile failure of the Obama administration, spearheaded by Secretary of State John Kerry, to bring Israel and the Palestinian Authority to a historic peace agreement in 2014.
In March, one day before the election, Netanyahu told a reporter for the Makor Rishon newspaper that “indeed” there would be no Palestinian state on his watch.
Obama, in response, told the Huffington Post after the elections, “We take him at his word when he said that it wouldn’t happen during his prime ministership, and so that’s why we’ve got to evaluate what other options are available to make sure that we don’t see a chaotic situation in the region.”
Ya’alon on Tuesday made the case, as he often has in the past, that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was a minor feud amid the roiling Middle East and that any major tinkering with the status quo in the West Bank would lead to greater instability.
“Imagine if we would have agreed to the proposal to remove security freedom” from Israeli forces operating in the West Bank, he said. “There would be ‘Hamastan’ there.”
He said that Israel, and not the Palestinian security forces, had thwarted last summer a 95-person Hamas conspiracy to unseat PA President Mahmoud Abbas by launching a string of terror attacks from the West Bank against Israelis. He further said that if Hamas took over the West Bank, the situation there would soon be akin to that in the Gaza Strip – Islamist rule, challenged by the Iranian-backed Palestinian Islamic Jihad and the Islamic State-like Salafist groups.
“What are the implications of this for the Hashemite Kingdom?” he asked. “Will it survive that?”
“Wishful thinking,” he charged, was not sufficient grounds for a major political shift that could lead to “destructive shortcuts.” Instead, he made the case for an improved status quo, whereby Palestinians work with Israel and govern themselves without formal statehood.
In his 40-minute security address — which touched on Iran’s role in the region and the overlapping security interests shared by Israel and the more moderate Sunni states — Ya’alon said that the “tool used more than others” in order to combat Israel today is the tool “of delegitimization and demonization.”
The quintessential example of the “unholy alliance” between Islamist organizations and European leftists and others, he said, was the Turkish Mavi Marmara ship, which, when called to change course by an Israeli Navy officer in May 2010, responded in English, “Go back to Auschwitz.”
Ya’alon, speaking to this week’s elections in Turkey, which saw President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s party lose its parliamentary majority, called the country “a Muslim Brotherhood regime.”