Ya’alon lambastes PA for bailing out on plan to ease Gaza blockade
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Ya’alon lambastes PA for bailing out on plan to ease Gaza blockade

Defense minister accuses Palestinian Authority of running away from deal that would have put its officers in charge of Gaza crossings

Mitch Ginsburg is the former Times of Israel military correspondent.

Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon (center), during the war in Gaza, summer 2014 (photo credit: Ariel Hermoni/Defense Ministry/Flash90)
Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon (center), during the war in Gaza, summer 2014 (photo credit: Ariel Hermoni/Defense Ministry/Flash90)

Israel’s defense minister on Monday accused the Palestinian Authority of failing to implement a deal that would have placed PA presidential guards at the border crossings in and out of Gaza after the 50-day war in the region last summer, enabling the easing of the blockade on the Strip.

“We tried after [Operation] Protective Edge, with Egyptian agreement, to facilitate the entry of the PA into the Strip, but they didn’t want it,” Moshe Ya’alon said in a videotaped address to the annual conference of the INSS — the Institute for National Security Studies.

Egypt, he said, “treats Hamas as a hostile element, even as enemies,” and therefore it was clear that the only way to allow the more open transfer of goods and people in and out of Gaza to Israel and Egypt would be through the stationing of PA troops at the border crossings.

“We created a three-way mechanism — the [Israeli] Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, the Palestinian prime minister, and the UN representative Robert Serry. What’s left of that today? The coordinator and Robert Serry. The Palestinians ran away! They are good at accusing us at the UN and the Security Council and the ICC. But when it comes time to take responsibility, they are nowhere, and this was not the first time.”

A Palestinian Hamas security officer stands guard as Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah (unseen) arrives to tour some of the areas worst hit by the 50-day war between Israel and Gaza militants in July and August, on October 9, 2014. (photo credit: Mohammed Abed/AFP)
A Palestinian Hamas security officer stands guard as Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah (unseen) arrives to tour some of the areas worst hit during the 50-day war between Israel and Gaza militants in July and August, on October 9, 2014. (photo credit: AFP/Mohammed Abed)

Ya’alon described Israel and the Palestinians as “Siamese twins” linked by the flesh of economic concerns such as water, electricity, and employment, and said that the PA’s threats of triggering its own collapse — or throwing away the keys, as he put it — are “empty threats.”

Nonetheless, he underscored, not for the first time, that in his view the notion of a solution to the conflict is wrongheaded. Instead, in light of the gaps between the Israeli and Palestinian positions, he called for a “bottom-up” managing of the situation.

Left-wing and centrist former security officials have come out [Hebrew] against this notion of conflict management, with former Military Intelligence head Uri Sagi likening it to a doctor’s advice alongside the bed of a terminally ill patient, instructing him “how to maintain his quality of life in his final days.”

Ya’alon also addressed the international negotiations with Iran, voicing consternation and even bewilderment at the narrow scope of the talks and the retreat from the initial position, which, he said, was designed to force the regime in Tehran to choose between its own survival and its nuclear project.

A satellite image shown on Israel's Channel 2 news, January 21, 2015, said to show a new long-range Iranian missile on a launch pad outside Tehran. (Channel 2 screenshot)
A satellite image shown on Israel’s Channel 2 news, January 21, 2015, said to show a new long-range Iranian missile on a launch pad outside Tehran. (Channel 2 News: screenshot)

Looking at Tehran’s decades-long march toward the bomb, he said that “the good news” is that while, at first, no one, “including our friends the Americans,” were willing to believe that the project was aimed toward a military nuclear bomb, with time, even the International Atomic Energy Agency was won over to the Israeli position. Additionally, the coordinated international effort, of sanctions and military plans, forced Iran to the negotiating table, even to a direct dialogue “with the Great Satan,” the United States.

“But to our dismay, when he began talking, instead of there being a firm and clear position” regarding Iran’s military nuclear project, Ya’alon said, too much latitude was given to Iran.

The debate was not about enrichment or not, but about “How many thousands of centrifuges will they have?”

The plutonium track, too, seems to have produced unnecessary conciliations, he said.

Additionally, neither the bomb-construction research, allegedly done in the Parchin facility up to 2003 and alluded to in a subsequent IAEA report, nor the delivery method of the bombs — Iran’s long-range missiles — is part of the international negotiations.

Nor are Iran’s destabilizing and “bad” actions in Yemen, Gaza, Lebanon, Syria, and South America, Ya’alon said. “And we wonder, how are all of these topics not under discussion? How is it that those who are handling the negotiations with this regime, which is under pressure, are all of a sudden giving in to it?”

The current negotiations, which are nearing the final stretch, should seek “a wide package deal” with Iran, he said, curbing an array of behaviors and avoiding “paving the path” of a messianic and apocalyptic regime toward “hegemony in the region.”

The current deadline for negotiations, which has been extended repeatedly in the past, is March 24.

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