Ya'alon Again Knocks U.S. Policy, Without Getting Personal

America and Europe have a 'misguided understanding' of the Middle East and the way it works, says Israel's defense minister.

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The United States and Europe have a "misguided understanding" of the Middle East and "do not understand its processes," Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon told an audience in Jerusalem on Thursday night, according to a report in Ma'ariv newspaper.

Seemingly undeterred by last week's diplomatic incident with the United States, during which he was compelled to apologize for personal attacks on Secretary of State John Kerry, Ya'alon made it clear that he totally rejected the military framework proposed by the Americans in the context of the ongoing peace negotiations with the Palestinians.

"Sensors and drones are no substitute for the physical presence of Israel Defense Forces soldiers,” the defense minister said, in an address to the Jewish Statesmanship Center in Jerusalem “The Jordan Valley is vital to the security of Israel, and we cannot assent to third parties being there in our stead. Security in the valley must remain in our hands for an extended period,” Ya’alon said.

"As defense minister I strongly support technological innovations that assist our forces but they cannot replace our physical presence in the field."

While refraining from making any personal remarks about Israel's allies, Ya'alon was scathing about what he described as the "Western preoccupation with the Palestinian issue," which, he said, was far from being the principal problem in the region.

He also criticized the Obama administration for assisting in the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood to power in Egypt, while refusing to assist the "counter-revolution" of the Egyptian military, which he termed Washington’s “natural ally."

Ya'alon was forced to apologize last week for insulting Kerry, after describing the secretary as "obsessive and messianic" and remarking that he hoped Kerry would "get a Nobel Prize and leave us alone."

The U.S. team overseeing the Israel-Palestinian negotiations has presented a draft security plan, providing for an Israeli military presence in the Jordan Valley for 10 years after a peace negotiation, as well as high-tech security measures in the region. Both the Palestinians and Israel have rejected the American proposals, though for different reasons.

Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon.Credit: Tomer Appelbaum

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