Ya'alon Criticizes the U.S.: You Can't Sit on the Fence With Regard to the Middle East and ISIS

The Israeli defense minister also said Israel did not want to govern the Palestinians and that he opposed a one-state solution.

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Defense Minister Ya'alon, earlier this year. Shortened his trip to Washington due to the security situation in Israel.Credit: Sivan Parag

Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon, speaking at the Saban Forum in Washington D.C. Friday, criticized the U.S. for its lack of involvement in the Middle East.

"The U.S. can't sit on the fence with regard to the Middle East and ISIS," Ya'alon said, "It should lead and be more involved." He added that Israel was "not happy to see Jordan, Saudi Arabia and other Sunni countries running to Russia."

Concerning the war in Syria, Ya'alon said that Sunnis and Kurds can provide the "boots on the ground" needed in the fight, but that they need to be “orchestrated and led.” Local forces should be empowered to fight, he said, adding that "Western troops in the Middle East should be the last resort."

The defense minister predicted that "Syria will suffer from chronic instability for a long time," and that Israel did not foresee "an end to this tragedy."

He criticized the decision to have Iran join the talks on the Syrian war in Vienna, saying it provides Iran with opportunity “to gain more hegemony.”

Turning to the deal the world powers signed with Iran regarding its nuclear program, Ya'alon said Israel "still considers the Iran deal as a historic mistake," adding that the 10-15 year delay in its nuclear program is “around the corner.” According to Ya'alon, "Iran hasn't given up on the idea of becoming a military nuclear power."

With regard to Israel's ties with the U.S., Ya'alon said that the defense ties between the two countries were “superb.” He also revealed that U.S. President Barack Obama has directed that a new ten-year Memorandum of Understanding with Israel be completed within two months.

About the Palestinians, Ya'alon said he opposed the one-state solution, and stated that Israel did not want to govern the Palestinians. "We are happy they already have their political independence," he said, adding that Israel wants to strengthen Palestinian competence to govern themselves.