Israel Needs Ya'alon to Be Defense Minister, Not Settlements Minister

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Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon.Credit: Ofer Vaknin

Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon apparently realizes that these may be his last months in office and he is unlikely to keep his position after the election. In addition, his increasingly right-wing and more-ultranationalist Likud party is holding a primary, and in order to be elected to the Knesset the candidates must turn as far right as possible. But even that does not explain Ya’alon’s irresponsible behavior.

Ya’alon recently ordered the relocation of two army bases located on “state land” in the West Bank, to allow for the expansion of nearby settlements. In order to effect the relocations, the Israel Defense Forces will take up additional territory in the West Bank. The Border Police base in Ashmoret Yitzhak, near Kiryat Arba, and the army base near the settlement of Alei Zahav will be relocated, and the two settlements will expand into these areas.

The IDF has no difficulty in taking over West Bank lands, because by law, Israel is permitted to seize any land in the West Bank for “security needs.” Ya’alon is using the law cunningly to bring about the expansion of more and more settlements.

At such a sensitive time for Israel of international diplomatic struggle and suppressed tension in the West Bank, one might have expected the defense minister to act responsibly and judiciously, both from the diplomatic and security aspects. But he has not. Ya’alon wants to be as high as possible on Likud’s Knesset slate in order to win reelection. He also wants to act on his desire to build as much as possible in the settlements.

He said as much in a recent recording of remarks he made at the Mekor Haim yeshiva in the West Bank. “I very much want to approve the plans and build more,” he said. He also said he was wary of doing so because of how the current U.S. administration might respond and expressed the hope that this administration would be “temporary.”

Ya’alon has proved time and again that he is not fit to serve as defense minister, neither in this government nor the next one. In fact, Israel’s security is now in irresponsible, even dangerous hands, that could reduce even further the international position of the state and the security situation in the occupied territories.

Israel does not need a settlements minister, but a reasonable, sober, responsible defense minister. Ya’alon has proved in his recent statements and decisions that he is not doing the job in a worthy manner. 

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