Moshe Ya'alon: Strategic thinker and leader
Candidly Speaking: Ya’alon is perhaps the most understated minister in the government and is considered a highly untypical Israeli leader.
VICE PREMIER Moshe Ya’alon Photo: Ariel Jerozolimski
A recent interview by journalist Ari Shavit with former IDF chief of staff, now
vice premier, Moshe Ya’alon, provides a fascinating insight into the thinking of
one of Israel’s most sophisticated political leaders and covers the crucial
challenges facing the nation. It deserves to be widely read.
the extensive interview was published in the weekend magazine of Haaretz, the
Israeli daily notorious for promoting the very views which Ya’alon’s interview
Coincidentally, precisely seven years ago I
devoted a column to Ya’alon, describing him as one of the most adroit strategic
thinkers to have headed the IDF. He was then accused of being disgruntled and
embittered after his premature termination as chief of staff by then-prime
minister Ariel Sharon in response to his fierce opposition to the withdrawal
from Gaza – for which he was subsequently totally vindicated.
retired in the wake of his successful military response to terror which
demonstrated that, contrary to the mantras invoked by the bleeding-heart
leftists, resolute military action can significantly neutralize terrorism. He
was also proactive when he instituted dual-track initiatives of targeted
assassinations and construction of the security fence, the combination of which
effectively brought an end to the second intifada.
In my earlier column,
I expressed frustration and anger that, in a country facing existential threats
from its neighbors, a retiring chief of staff’s explicit warnings of disastrous
repercussions arising from the policies of prime minister Ariel Sharon had been
totally ignored by the government and opposition. Regrettably, his predictions
were subsequently basically realized.
Although highly politically
incorrect at the time, Ya’alon also asserted that Palestinian Authority chairman
Mahmoud Abbas and his predecessor Yasser Arafat were birds of a feather. Far
from being peace partners, he insisted that they were primarily committed to
ending Jewish sovereignty in the region.
He furthermore predicted that
the Arab “right of return,” which other Israeli leaders contended was merely a
PA negotiating ploy, was set in stone and would remain a cornerstone of the
intransigent Palestinian demands.
He also warned of impending missile
attacks directed toward Israel’s civilians unless the government took steps to
enforce tougher deterrence.
Vice-Premier Ya’alon is certainly not typical
of contemporary right-wing activists. He is a follower of Ben- Gurion rather
than Jabotinsky. He is a kibbutznik with a Labor background who displays
traditionally liberal approaches in relation to most social, religious and
economic issues. Yet while not religiously observant, he enthusiastically
endorsed Jewish heritage educational programs designed to promote national
consciousness in the IDF.
This new interview provides fascinating
insights into Ya’alon’s view of the current imbroglio and reaffirms his primacy
as a profound strategic thinker in relation to Israel’s external military
A major component is devoted to the Iranian nuclear threat.
Ya’alon stresses that we must not, under any circumstances, stand by and enable
“the apocalyptic-messianic regime of the ayatollahs” to obtain the bomb.
Although hopeful that Israel will not be obliged to go it alone, Ya’alon insists
that “we are not bluffing” and that despite the likelihood of considerable
Israel casualties should armed conflict ensue, it is unquestionably preferable
for us to bomb rather than to be bombed.
He points out that the IDF has
the ability to hit the Iranian surrogate Hezbollah with 150 times the explosive
power they could direct against us, which should make the Lebanese government
weigh the consequences if they enable missiles to be launched against Israel
from their territory.
Ya’alon also articulates what few other Israeli
leaders are willing to say publicly. “I was ready to divide the land but they
are not... because they say ‘either them or us,’ I say ‘us’... as long as the
other side is not ready to recognize our right to exist as the nation state of
the Jewish people, I am not ready to forgo a millimeter. I am not even willing
to talk about territory. After land-for- peace became land-for-terror and
land-for-rockets, I am no longer willing to bury my head in the sand.”
adds, “One of our biggest problems is that we have become solution-oriented and
expect a solution now.... We need to look not for a solution but for a path.
There are problems in life that have no solution.
At the moment the
Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a problem with no solution.... Anyone suggesting
otherwise is promoting a false illusion. A golden calf.
Yet Ya’alon remains optimistic. “When I see where my
grandparents and parents were and where my children are – I see that time is not
working against us....The secret of Zionism is that when our ethos is to
build and the ethos of the other side is to destroy, our ethos will triumph....
We must free ourselves of being solution- orientated and discard self-blame. We
must free ourselves of thinking that if I give in to the enemy and please the
enemy, the enemy will give me quiet. That is an Ashkenazi way of thinking
unrelated to the reality of the Middle East.”
Ya’alon was asked, “As a
Mapainik, a kibbutznik, a Rabinist, how did you become a Likudnik?” To which he
responded, “The Labor movement had Yitzchak Tabenkin and Yigal Allon and Yitzhak
Even Rabin from the Oslo process was never from Peace Now. He
supported the Allon Plan in the broad sense and firmly opposed withdrawal to
Before his assassination he spoke in the Knesset about an
eternally united Jerusalem and about the Jordan Rift Valley and about a
Palestinian entity that would be less than a state.”
Ya’alon is perhaps
the most understated minister in the government and is considered a highly
untypical Israeli leader. He is not an adept political street-fighter.
is soft-spoken, even dour, and certainly lacks charisma.
Despite his low
profile he is one of our most capable leaders. He was a brilliant chief of staff
who can take credit, to a large extent, for creating the strategy that brought
an end to the era of the suicide bombings.
His moral integrity would
qualify him to serve as a role model for most Knesset members. Irrespective as
to whether or not he rises to more senior positions in the government, it is
comforting that a man of his caliber is today a senior member of the security
cabinet and influential in the formulation of defense policies.
also reassuring to know that if Ya’alon ever considered that the government was
initiating policies endangering the country, unlike numerous other politicians,
he would not remain silent.
The writer’s website can be viewed at
www.wordfromjerusalem.com. He may be contacted at