The 50-day offensive against Hamas in Gaza over the summer proved that a withdrawal from the West Bank would be both irrational and outdated, mortally threatening the Hashemite Kingdom and the Palestinian Authority, and placing Israel in even greater danger, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon said Tuesday.
“Immediately after Operation Protective Edge we heard: now is the time for a diplomatic process,” he said with evident cynicism at a security conference at the INSS think tank in Tel Aviv.
Ya’alon said that there were calls, from within the cabinet — an apparent allusion to comments by ministers Tzipi Livni and Yair Lapid — and elsewhere, for Israel to withdraw from the territory, despite the fact that from May to July the Shin Bet arrested over 90 Hamas operatives whose alleged plan was to both attack Israel and overthrow the Palestinian Authority.
“In this situation, can one even consider restricting the freedom of action of the defense forces in Judea and Samaria?” he asked, using the biblical names for the West Bank. “How one can rationally reach this conclusion — it is hard for me to fathom.”
A withdrawal, Ya’alon said, would facilitate the rise “of Hamastan” in the West Bank, followed by mortars, rather than rockets, on Israel’s international airport. The military air bases, in Ramat David in the Galilee and Nevatim in the northern Negev, would come under threat of anti-aircraft weapons. And the territory would be used, as in Gaza, by global jihad organizations. “Who can allow himself this sort of security situation in Judea and Samaria?” he said. “And not just vis-a-vis Israel; also vis-a-vis the Hashemite Kingdom. Can it survive that?”
Instead, he suggested abandoning the old options and advancing “in the new directions that the prime minister hinted at yesterday [in his address before the UN General Assembly].”
Ya’alon, who outlined the achievements of the war on Sunday as well, also commended the Israeli home front, saying that Israel had in the past “rightfully earned” Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah’s disparaging May 2000 speech, in which he likened the fragility of the Jewish state to a spiderweb. “During the nineties, all the way to Operation Defensive Shield” in 2002, Ya’alon said, “we projected weakness.”
“I think that during Operation Protective Edge we placed exclamation points, as a society, in such a way that Hassan Nasrallah today will not repeat the spiderweb speech,” he said. “We projected strength, particularly in our ability to stand and take it. Yes, 51 days, 4,500 rockets and mortars, [but] in the end, as a society, we projected strength.”