ANALYSIS / 'Israel's No. 1 Soldier' Will Push Obama Away

Why has ex-IDF chief Ya'alon allied himself to a far-rightist who Netanyahu called 'cancer' within Likud?

Had we not seen it, we would not have believed it: The vice prime minister, a senior Likud member and close confidant of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a member of the six-member diplomatic-security forum, hanging around with the man whom Netanyahu tried with all his might to oust from Likud, the man Netanyahu defines as "a cancer at the heart of the movement."

What dybbuk has suddenly taken possession of Moshe Ya'alon? First he led a tour of the illegal settlement outposts earlier this week; next came his lunatic remark about rebuilding the dismantled West Bank settlement of Homesh. And, finally, Wednesday night, Channel 2 television revealed him in his natural setting, alongside Moshe Feiglin and his followers.

And then there is what he actually said: Peace Now and the "elites" are a "virus"; anytime politicians try to make peace, the army has to clean up after them; the Supreme Court and the media are contemptible. Is it any wonder Feiglin was overjoyed? Clearly, a man after his own heart.

There is no doubt that the warm handshake the two men exchanged afterward marks the start of a new political alliance - an alliance that will push Ya'alon to the margins of Likud and then out of politics altogether. If Netanyahu had any guts, he would summon him immediately and dismiss him from the inner cabinet and the diplomatic-security forum, if not from the government entirely.

Netanyahu has two vice premiers: Silvan Shalom and Ya'alon. Until now, the former has been marginalized, hated and feared, while the latter was in on everything, loved and trusted. Shalom was left out of the diplomatic-security forum; Ya'alon has a place of honor there. Netanyahu repeatedly humiliated Shalom; Ya'alon is the man he personally brought to Likud and flattered as "Israel's No. 1 soldier."

But since then, Ya'alon has spit in his face. First, he skipped the Knesset vote on Netanyahu's baby, the Israel Lands Administration reform; then came this week's incidents.

Ya'alon's political tactics are so transparent as to be embarrassing: He believes Netanyahu will cave under pressure, his party will rise up against him and then Ya'alon - the farmer from Kibbutz Grofit who once supported the Oslo Accords, but has now become the far right's representative in the government - will take over Likud with the aid of Feiglin's camp. Either that, or he has no plan at all - which is even scarier.

One could speculate that Ya'alon's delusional right-wing statements actually serve Netanyahu, by helping him convince the Americans that he faces tough domestic opposition. But Netanyahu's responses, both Wednesday night and after the outpost tour, lend no credence to this theory.

Netanyahu understands that the Americans are following Ya'alon's statements and wondering whether the premier is not behind them. After all, Ya'alon is the vice prime minister, a man deep in Netanyahu's inner circle. And with an ocean of suspicion already dividing Netanyahu from U.S. President Barack Obama, Ya'alon's comments will only make his dealings with the Americans even harder.