Netanyahu and Ya'alon.
Netanyahu and Ya'alon at the Knesset. Photo by Tess Scheflan
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Defense minister Moshe Ya'alon said Saturday that a peace agreement with the Palestinians is unreachable unless they recognize Israel as a Jewish state, and that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is no partner for peace.

Ya'alon, told Channel 2 TV Saturday, "It is impossible to make an agreement without there being recognition on the other side of our right to exist as the national homeland of the Jewish people." He said Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is "not a partner" for ending the conflict. Peace won't happen in his generation, he said.

Speaking on the Channel 2 public affairs program “Meet the Press,” Ya’alon said there is no quick fix for rocket attacks from Gaza. Rather than speak about resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, “there should be discussion of conflict management. I don’t know what will be here many years ahead, but when we are in a hurry, like in Oslo, or when it seems that we now have some ‘quick fix’ like in Gaza, we are wrong, we mislead and we miss the mark.”

With regard to Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman’s suggestion that Israel retake the Gaza Strip, Ya’alon said: “It’s important to discuss every possibility seriously and weigh it in terms of cost-utility.” Ya’alon said that since Israel’s November 2012 incursion into Gaza, Operation Pillar of Defense, “Hamas has not opened fire, and now Islamic Jihad is trying to raise its head.” Ya’alon said this situation required the attention of “everyone who is urging us to leave Judea and Samaria.”

“Imagine ‘Hamastan’ in Judea and Samaria, but not just ordinary ‘Hamastan,’ the kind with Islamic Jihad, Salafi elements, Global Jihad and Al-Qaida – that’s what there is in Gaza.” Ya’alon told interviewer Rina Matzliah. Ya’alon said Israel demanded that Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip, be responsible for these elements, enforce quiet and “bring about long-term periods of calm.”

“Hamas is good for us in Gaza…I don’t go into what is good or not good, but when we examine a situation we also have to examine the alternatives,” Ya’alon said.

Ya’alon said he completely disagreed with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s recent statement that it is a mistake to focus on the demand to recognize Israel as a Jewish state. “I supported Oslo; I thought that if we gave up land it would bring us tranquility, but when I discovered that the conflict is not only over land, and land is not only Judea and Samaria, it’s actually ‘all of Palestine,’ as they call it, the whole land of Israel, I became more realistic.”

When Matzliah said that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas does recognize Israel, Ya’alon said: “That’s exactly the trick. What is ‘recognize Israel.’ … that is precisely their doctrine of stages. We’ll take any area that we get and we’ll continue the conflict. It doesn’t promise us an end to the conflict,” Ya’alon said.

When Matzliah asked Ya’alon what he would be willing to give up he said: “I supported ‘land for peace’ among my sins, and what did I get – land for terror and more than 1,000 killed and thousands of rockets. What did the Palestinians give up? Nothing.”

When Matzliah noted that the Palestinians are the ones under occupation, Ya’alon said: “What occupation? They have political independence. If something good came from Oslo, it’s that they have political independence. They don’t need to vote for the Knesset. They have a government, two governments."

The issue of Jewish state recognition is a sticking point in U.S. mediated talks. The Palestinians have rejected it. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has called recognition the "root of the conflict," as it predates settlements and other issues at the heart of the talks.

Kerry told the House Committee on Foreign Affairs on Thursday that it is problematic for people to continue raising the issue of whether Palestinians would agree to recognize Israel as a Jewish state.

"I think it's a mistake for some people to be, you know, raising it again and again as the critical decider of their attitude towards the possibility of a state and peace, and we've obviously made that clear," he said when asked to state the Obama administration's official position on the matter, as quoted in reports Thursday.

Abbas meets with U.S. President Barack Obama on Monday next week.