Fire Israel's Defense Minister

The person emerging as Benjamin Netanyahu’s most dangerous rival is Moshe Ya’alon.

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Many years ago, between the Yom Kippur War and the signing of the peace agreement with Egypt, Haaretz published a piece headlined “A quiet chief of staff is better than a talkative one.” The article dealt with the then-chief of staff’s sudden urge to chatter during an open lecture before the Israel-American Chamber of Commerce. His address included plenty of revelations, nonsense and claims, like this one: Israel needn’t be concerned by the Scud missiles Syria had received because they weren’t accurate.

Publication of the story led to a serious argument between the chief military censor and Haaretz’s editor, who was surprised by the effort to disqualify legitimate coverage of a public event. The censor’s response was that the piece makes the chief of staff look foolish, and it was inappropriate for our enemies to get such an impression of the army’s leader. The editor did not accept this bizarre explanation and published the article in full, knowing that as a result he would be slapped with a substantial fine.

Nowadays the censor doesn’t deal with the wisdom or stupidity of senior army officers. This is firstly because we have no argument with the military, which is doing its job properly, and secondly, because of the 10 measures of idiocy bestowed on the world, elected officials took nine. When a black president with a touch of Muslim background set foot in the White House, Israel was more concerned than usual about how he would relate to us. Will the special relationship continue? Will the financial and military assistance be affected? And when U.S. President Barack Obama decided to get involved in the peace process, he chose to go to Egypt first, which made Israel even more fearful. But Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu offered his hand in peace, with a sly condition: recognition of Israel as the Jewish state. Meanwhile, Egypt has turned into something other than a regional power, while Israel has turned the slogan “recognition of the Jewish state” into a land mine on the road to peace.

Netanyahu knew that this condition would not be accepted by the Palestinians, and chose to use it to prevent too many concessions on the settlement issue and reduce the international pressure on him – a rather transparent exercise, any way you look at it. The United Nations doesn’t recognize religions, only states, and indeed, it is only in the Basic Law: Human Dignity and Freedom, which was passed in 1992, that the words “the values of the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state” are even mentioned. If both sides were really serious about reaching a peace agreement, Israel wouldn’t have laid that mine and the Palestinians would be ignoring it. After all, it’s obvious that they are Arabs and we are Jews, and the issue of religion never came up when we signed peace treaties with Jordan or Egypt. We do not need the approval of the Muqata Rebbe. Menachem Begin himself, during the negotiations with Egypt at Camp David, recognized that Israel is a state with an Arab minority that has rights.

As we approach the date meant to mark the end of the negotiations being mediated by Secretary of State John Kerry, the restlessness of our political leadership is palpable. Will we fulfill our commitment to release the last round of prisoners, even though no agreement is in sight? Will we have the sense to accept the framework agreement Kerry will suggest to possibly keep the talks going? And above all, will we have the courage or the intelligence to release from prison Marwan Barghouti, who is the only one at this point who, as an eventual successor to Mahmoud Abbas, can bring about an agreement?

If Netanyahu wants to, he can prevent a crisis. Neither Economy Minister Naftali Bennett nor the extremists in the Likud will bring him down, because after him comes the deluge. The person emerging as the prime minister’s most dangerous rival is Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, whose opponents say of him that not only does he look like a fool, but he is a fool.

This is the first time that a defense minister, who knows full well what we get from the United States and how it affects all aspects of our lives, has ever dared speak ill of the American president. Ya’alon’s threat to act alone against Iran further increases one’s doubts about the defense minister’s discretion. Ya’alon ought to be removed from his post, so that our relationship with our best of friends isn’t permanently ruined.

Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon and U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel.Credit: Ariel Harmoni / Ministry of Defense

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