Israeli Defense Minister Moshe “Bogie” Ya'alon may have ruffled more than a few feathers in Washington on Friday by declaring that Secretary of State John Kerry’s peace initiative has “failed so far” and that the Arab League proposals - which Kerry has praised - is nothing more than “spin.”
On Syria, Ya'alon downplayed reports of an ascendant President Bashar Assad, saying he controlled only 40% of Syrian territory. He expressed skepticism about any conclusion to the Syrian civil war – “with or without Assad."
In the entire Middle East, he said, the monarchies are relatively stable but “the nation-states, the republics, are in a state of collapse.”
Ya'alon also said that Iranian leader Ali Khamenei “has to be convinced that the United States and the West have the political stomach to go all the way – including the use of military force” before he will consider stopping Tehran’s nuclear drive.
“Iran should face clear dilemma whether to go on with rogue activities or to survive as a regime,” Ya'alon said.
In an address to the Washington Institute in advance of his meeting with U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, Ya'alon said that Kerry’s plan to bring the sides to the table had missed its June 7 deadline and had “failed so far.”
He dismissed the recent Arab League agreement for “territorial swaps” between Israel and the Palestinians and the Arab initiative as a whole as nothing more than “spin” and a “dictation” to Israel to give up territory before discussing its own demands. U.S. Secretary of State Kerry has praised the Arab League move as a significant step towards peace.
Ya'alon said that the Palestinians are clinging to their preconditions for coming to talks – “they want to get something for nothing” – and, in any case, they are unwilling to accept Israel’s two main demands – recognition of its right to exist as a Jewish state and a willingness to declare “end of conflict” after an agreement on borders is reached.
Ya'alon called on the United States to demand an eradication of incitement in education programs as a precondition to the continued transfer of funds. He described Palestinian resistance to Israel is part of the effort to delegitimize Israel.
“I can’t be optimistic,” he said. The conflict with the Palestinians, he added, needs to be “managed”- a settlement might better be built “from the bottom up” by improving economic conditions and the “governance” of Palestinian institutions. Ya'alon mocked “solutionists” and “nowists” who believe in “instant solutions” to complex Middle East problems.
Ya'alon said that Syria had become an arena for a “game of superpowers” between the United States and Russia as well between Shiites and Sunnis and Iran and moderate Arab states. He said that the rebels are divided between the Muslim Brotherhood, which is supported by Turkey and Qatar, the Salafists, who are backed by Saudi Arabia – and al-Qaida elements whose goal is to destabilize all the countries surrounding Israel in order to use them as launching ground against their main enemy, Israel.
Regarding U.S. military aid to the rebels, Ya'alon said that Israel “was not in a position to dictate” to America what kind of weapons should be supplied to Syrian rebels – but “we have consultations."
Ya'alon was subdued his reaction to Russian arms supplies to the Middle East, saying that while Israel “is not happy” about the arms supplies, Russian policies in the area “are not aimed against Israel.”
Ya'alon praised the “earnest and intimate” dialogue what has developed between him and Hagel.
Science and Technology Minister Jacob Perry criticized Ya’alon for calling the Arab Peace Initiative “spin.”
“These kinds of statements move us further away from the negotiating table,” Perry said. “The Arab Peace Initiative, with changes necessary to Israel’s security, is one of the main ways [of moving forward]. ... It is our duty to seriously consider it, instead of altogether discarding it.”
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