Opinion

Former Israeli Intel Chief Displays Pre-intifada Cluelessness

Amos Yadlin says Trump's speech will help make the Palestinians compromise – a notion out of the playbook of December 1987

Alex Levac

Donald Trump’s announcement on Jerusalem will force the Palestinians to accept reality, announced Intelligence Affairs Minister Yisrael Katz – somehow managing to conceal a wide grin. Now they’ll understand there’s no choice but to conduct real negotiations.

Katz doesn’t mean a word of it, of course. Nothing makes him happier than to push any possible negotiations as far away as possible.

The real problem is responses like that by former Military Intelligence head Amos Yadlin. “Not only are we not seeing an unusual outbreak of violence, but we’ve discovered potential and a chance to advance a different diplomatic process in different conditions than we’re used to,” he wrote in the daily Yedioth Ahronoth.

As Yadlin put it, “Trump’s speech encourages a reexamination of the working assumptions and paradigms that guided the peace process for a quarter-century .... The speech demonstrates to the Palestinians that unlike what they might think, time is not on their side. Continuing to systematically reject any compromise will only help Israel get what it wants at their expense.”

The former Military Intelligence chief is an educated man, but the things he wrote reflect a total lack of understanding of reality. You could infer that the other side has powerful leaders who simply have a hard time compromising.

In reality, as is well known, the other side has weak, tired and old leaders whose method – negotiations without violence while applying diplomatic pressure – has reached a dead end. It’s very doubtful whether their maximum demands – a Palestinian state within the ‘67 borders – would be accepted by the Palestinian people today.

Even if the whole world joined Trump (and it isn’t), and even if Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas wanted with all his heart to renounce Jerusalem (and he doesn’t), there’s no chance the Palestinian people would allow that.

Alon Ron

Is it possible that Yadlin doesn’t know that? That he doesn’t know that Abbas isn’t exactly in the middle of the Palestinian political map? Abbas is the Palestinians’ Meretz, to say nothing of the Joint List – there’s nothing to the left of him. Not one significant voice in Palestinian society is calling on him to compromise more.

The argument that the Palestinians reject any compromise is ridiculous, if you consider that the Israeli side has a leader who for nine years has been using every possible excuse to avoid real negotiations.

In 2004 Ariel Sharon extracted from the U.S. president much more meaningful statements than the meager fare Trump has given us. George W. Bush wrote a letter hinting that the United States supported leaving the settlement blocs in Israeli hands and objected to a Palestinian right of return. Sharon’s people claimed that this was a historic promise that would make the Palestinians understand that time wasn’t on their side.

To this day, former minister Tzipi Livni boasts of her responsibility for this “achievement.” But that letter had no effect on anyone. On the two occasions the talks were resumed – with Ehud Olmert in 2007 and Benjamin Netanyahu in 2013 – it wasn’t mentioned. The Palestinian positions, on the other hand, became more rigid, due in no small part to their weakness – and despite our tremendous “successes” in squeezing empty declarations out of American presidents.

If Yadlin were a politician, we could assume he was pandering to those mysterious votes in the center-right that are spinning Avi Gabbay and Yair Lapid’s heads. Gabbay, for example, announced last week that a united Jerusalem is preferable to peace. The Arab neighborhoods Isawiyah and Shoafat have apparently received hallowed status because his parents dreamed of them back in Morocco.

Or something like that. In his campaign to become Labor’s leader, Gabbay said something completely different, of course. Back then he talked about dividing Jerusalem, including the Old City.

But Yadlin is neither Gabby nor Lapid. He isn’t running for office. He was Military Intelligence chief, and today he heads the Institute for National Security Studies and gets invited to important forums and events. Important people listen to him. But in the end it turns out that he talks like intelligence people talked 30 years ago at the beginning of December 1987 – when the first intifada broke out.