Opinion

Moshe Ya'alon for Prime Minister of Stupidity

The drivel Israel's ex-defense minister spouted last week, essentially supporting institutionalization of the West Bank apartheid regime, is a perfect expression of the country's new mainstream

Former Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon, at the Haaretz Israel Conference on Peace, June 12, 2017.

Former Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon is a trustworthy person. His name is synonymous with integrity; he's a square in the positive sense of the word. At this point, there has been no evidence to the contrary. He’s a person who has for the past three decades been at the pinnacle of military and political activity. And that's interesting because his political and military worldview is the embodiment of smoke and mirrors.

On Sunday, Haaretz reported on a speech that Ya’alon made at a religious girls’ school in Beit Shemesh. A close reading of his remarks reveals them to be nonsense – a mountain of contradictions and inconsistencies of the kind the former Israel Defense Forces chief of staff has been known for since he first entered politics.

In recent weeks, Ya’alon has been starring in the headlines. His public remarks on the investigation of Israel’s acquisition of German submarines and patrol boats have been disturbing to every decent citizen and embarrassing to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Labor Party leader Avi Gabbay has been courting Ya’alon. Yesh Atid's leader, Yair Lapid, courted him beforehand.

Actually, Ya'alon is at the heart of the long-standing Israeli political consensus. A kibbutznik, he was a commander of the IDF's elite Sayeret Matkal commando unit, which in 1988 sprayed bullets at Abu Jihad, a founder of the Palestine Liberation Organization, at close range while he was in bed, in Tunisia.

Ya'alon was the chief of staff who outfitted himself with high-top paratrooper’s boots to defend himself against “the snakes” at Defense Ministry headquarters. He was also the defense minister who expressed reservations about Elor Azaria, the soldier convicted of manslaughter this year for killing a wounded and subdued Palestinian terrorist. And he smelled corruption in the plans being promoted by Netanyahu and his associates to acquire naval hardware.

Ya’alon is the embodiment of the ultimate sabra in all of its iterations, as portrayed in literature and research. It’s not surprising that he told his Beit Shemesh audience of students that he has defined himself a man who identifies with settling the land, explaining that the border is demarcated by “the furrows of the plow” and the “children’s house,” during the era when kibbutz children lived separately from their parents. This was the rhetoric of the Jewish community in the country on the eve of the United Nations' 1947 Partition Plan – the language of kibbutzniks.

Ya’alon, who embodies the ideals of the pre-state Palmach underground militia, is stuck in the British Mandate. His rhetorical choices are ridiculous. There are no children’s houses in West Bank settlements. Children don’t sleep together there. They only attend highly subsidized after-school programs together. And when was the last time that Ya’alon saw a West Bank settler creating a furrow with a plow?

One-third of the Israelis living in the West Bank are ultra-Orthodox. Many of the others moved there for better, affordable housing. They received land from the state at bargain prices and a house in a settlement bloc, while continuing to earn their living in Jerusalem or the Tel Aviv area.

The handful of settlers who are engaged in agriculture rely on foreign and Palestinian laborers. A considerable number of the residents of these invasive settlements support themselves by providing local services, whether by means of government jobs or in various and sundry positions in political nonprofit groups. Their settlements are their profession.

Ya’alon reiterated to his audience in Beit Shemesh that there are no prospects for an agreement involving territory with the Palestinians, with whom there will never be peace, and that settlers should not be allowed to be evicted. Referring to the West Bank, he added that “there is enough room to settle another one to two million people in Judea and Samaria.” On the other hand, he insisted: “The illusion of a Greater Land of Israel has also evaporated ... We need to find a way for [the Palestinians] to live in political autonomy, not voting for the Knesset but rather for their own parliament."

In other words, we need to find a way to forever institutionalize the apartheid regime beyond the Green Line. And Ya'alon also has a security-related agenda that is at variance with any defensive military theory involving buffer zones or creation of clear and defensible borders.

“Where there is no children’s house,” he said in his speech, “there is no army. If you want to hold territory, you will need for there to be people living there.” That means soldiers and border police as the official cannon fodder in service of the settlers.

Such drivel is a perfect expression of the new Israeli mainstream. Naftali Bennett, head of Habayit Hayehudi, proposes “autonomy on steroids.” Benjamin Netanyahu opposes evacuation of settlements ־ as does Labor’s Gabbay, it turns out. Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman is fighting the Arab citizens of Israel. Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon is fighting high housing costs. Lapid is fighting the left-wing group Breaking the Silence and BDS.

To the left of Habayit Hayehudi’s Bezalel Smotrich and to the right of Meretz there is a huge coalition of stupidity, blindness and fraud. If he only had an ounce of charisma, Ya’alon would have been able to head such a unity government and with head held high lead Israel to a vision of apartheid and a binational state, all the way into the abyss.