Likud: Next, Ya'alon will claim only he stopped PM from accepting Uganda Plan

Ya’alon: Netanyahu was prepared to cede Jordan Valley

Likud party spars with former defense minister after he claims PM was willing to part with strategic area in peace deal

Ilan Ben Zion is an AFP reporter and a former news editor at The Times of Israel.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu observes the Jordan Valley with IDF officers during a tour in 2011. (Moshe Milner/GPO/Flash90)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu observes the Jordan Valley with IDF officers during a tour in 2011. (Moshe Milner/GPO/Flash90)

Former defense minister Moshe Ya’alon traded barbs with the Likud party Wednesday after claiming that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had agreed to cede control over the Jordan Valley as part of a peace deal with the Palestinians. Netanyahu’s Likud party dismissed the allegation.

In a speech at Bar Ilan University, Ya’alon said that unlike Netanyahu, “I wouldn’t give up complete Israeli control over the Jordan Valley and Jewish settlements in the West Bank and all of Jerusalem.”

Throughout the last round of peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians that ended in a stalemate in 2014, Netanyahu insisted that Israel maintain a long-term military presence in the Jordan Valley under any agreement with the Palestinians. But Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas publicly stated that he would only accept a three-year Israeli presence in the strategic region running along the border with Jordan.

During the nine-month-long negotiations with the Palestinians, Ya’alon dismissed the American security proposal as “not worth the paper it’s written on” in a closed-door meeting with colleagues leaked to the press. “Only our continued presence in Judea and Samaria and on the Jordan River will ensure that Ben Gurion Airport and Netanya will not become targets for missiles from every which way,” he said at the time.

Moshe Ya'alon (Wikimedia Commons via JTA)
Moshe Ya’alon (Wikimedia Commons via JTA)

“Among us on the right there are leaders today who would be satisfied with military presence alone,” he said. “Where have we come?”

Ya’alon, a former IDF chief of staff and Netanyahu’s defense minister for over three years, until his dismissal earlier this year in a cabinet reshuffle, has since butted heads with his former political ally, throwing down the gauntlet earlier this summer with an announcement that he’d challenge Netanyahu for the premiership in the next elections.

The Likud party shot back at its former senior member, saying, “This is the same [Ya’alon] who said over the course of a few months that Iran was a concern for the existence of Israel, and when the defense portfolio was taken from him he changed his version.

“He’s prepared to say anything today for someone to remember he exists,” the party said in a statement. “We won’t be surprised if next week he says that Netanyahu accepted the Uganda Scheme and that only thanks to him we remained in Israel, just to grab some more headlines.”

The party was alluding to the plan in the early 1900s to establish a Jewish state in British East Africa instead of Ottoman Palestine, which was ultimately rejected by the Zionist Congress.

Ya’alon shot back sardonically on Twitter, saying Netanyahu “accepted the Uganda Scheme, and only thanks to me we remained in Israel. Someone here is under pressure.”

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