Vice PM Ya'alon: Peace Now Is Virus

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu summoned Strategic Affairs Minister Moshe Ya'alon for clarifications last night following Ya'alon's attack on left-wing organizations that he called a "virus."

Ya'alon, who is also vice premier, made the remark at a meeting of the right-wing Jewish Leadership Movement earlier this week.

Ya'alon's statements, which were reported last night on Channel 2, apparently have embarrassed Netanyahu, who worked within Likud during his election campaign to marginalize the Jewish Leadership Movement, headed by Moshe Feiglin.

According to remarks made by a senior Likud activist, who during Netanyahu's election campaign showed off former Israel Defense Forces chief of staff Ya'alon as a plum acquisition, Likud was also embarrassed, calling the political relationship between [Ya'alon] and what are known as "the Feiglins" after the movement's leader, "dangerous and bizarre," the activist said, calling on Ya'alon to publicly apologize for his statements.

Another senior party member said, "Ya'alon turns out to be an extremist that does not understand the position of senior minister and his statements have damaged the prime minister, Likud and Israel."

When Netanyahu, who is vacationing in Israel, was informed of Ya'alon's remarks, he told associates they were "very serious" and decided to summon the vice premier for clarifications.

Ya'alon, who sees himself as a candidate for the leadership of Likud, was a guest of honor this week at a the Jewish Leadership Movement's meeting in Jerusalem, in which he lashed out at the left, the media and the Americans.

In order to "save the country," Ya'alon said, "we must deal with the issue of the virus that is Peace Now and, if you will, the elites, their damage is very great. From my point of view Jews should live in every part of the Land of Israel forever."

Ya'alon also said, "as chief of staff I often said in closed forums that the politicians bring the dove of peace here, and the army has to clean up after it."

Ya'alon said the media and the left "have power, or influence, if you will, over the prime minister," adding, "unfortunately, the media in general and other factors - call them the elites - are impacting public discourse in a distorted way, lying, manipulative, misleading way."

When asked why we are afraid of the Americans, Ya'alon said, to applause: "I'm not afraid of the Americans."

Ya'alon said the situation in Israel was "undemocratic," noting "what we have here are focuses of power without responsibility."

In further criticizing the media, Ya'alon said that "the challenges are not simple, not in themselves and not in light of the confusion the Israeli public has been fed for the past 16 years.

"In fact, from the beginning of the Oslo process it was clear to us that the other side is cheating. From the moment Yasser Arafat crossed into Rafah, he was cheating."

Ya'alon gave the Jewish Leadership Movement his perspective on terror since the Oslo process began, and his career in the military and Military Intelligence, arguing that the decision to have the dynamic of peace and the atmosphere of peace bring security had led to more terror.

"There's no terror with me," Ya'alon said. Referring to the bomb-maker Yehiye Ayash, killed in 1996, he said: "They denied his existance until his cell phone blew up in his hand."

Feiglin congratulated Ya'alon following his statements and said: "God willing, we will do better things."

Ya'alon remained unfazed by the storm of controversy ignited by his remarks. A statement from his bureau said: Ya'alon met with the Jewish Leadership Movement "after many appeals and in the framework of his meetings with Likud activists throughout the country," and that "participants knew it would be documented." The statement also said Ya'alon's positions were well-known and that he stood behind his remarks.

Ya'alon said, "We must not think for a moment that when a government like ours is elected, the internal ideological struggle has ended."

He said the government had reassessed its approach to the Palestinian and the Iranian situations, and that it had stood strong the the face of American pressure, "which has led to movement in their positions."

He said there was work behind the scenes and he hoped that "very quickly a policy could be presented that I will also share."

Moving to English in his description of the Israeli political scene, he said: "It's not right or left, it's right or wrong," adding that the secretary general of Peace Now, Yariv Oppenheimer, called Ya'alon's statements "dangerous," and "a strategic threat to democracy."

Associates of Labor Party chairman, Defense Minister Ehud Barak, said Peace Now is an important part of the peace cam and an integral part of democratic discourse in Israel.

Sources in Kadima called Ya'alon "the true face of Netanyahu."