Former defense minister Moshe Ya’alon met with American officials who play central roles in President Donald Trump’s administration ahead of Trump’s election, and advised them how to avoid mistakes in the Middle East, Ya’alon told The Jerusalem Post in an interview that will be published on Friday.
Ya’alon’s recommendations that Trump appears to have implemented include holding Iran accountable for missile tests, responding to the use of chemical weapons in Syria, and asking Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to stop funding Palestinian terrorists and their families. He said those three steps would correct some of the mistakes made by Trump’s predecessor, Barack Obama.
“Since the dawn of Zionism, the Arab position has been consistent, with no Arab leader being willing to divide the land with us,” Ya’alon said. “Abbas won’t deliver the goods. There isn’t anyone on their side who can. Trump is looking for a deal. But there is no partner for a deal.”
Reacting to Wednesday’s Trump-Abbas Washington press conference
, Ya’alon said Abbas said nothing new, noting that he reiterated his commitment to two states but did not mention two peoples, because he refuses to recognize the Jewish people.
“I don’t think he can bridge the gaps, because Abbas won’t change his views,” Ya’alon said. “I think Trump needs to show goodwill at the beginning, but when the decisive time comes, he will see that it is the Palestinians who refuse to make peace, just like [US presidents George W.] Bush and [Bill] Clinton [did].”
Ya’alon, who will be speaking at Sunday’s Jerusalem Post Conference in New York, recommended to the future Trump administration officials that they focus on bottom-up steps to improve the Palestinian economy and infrastructure, while allowing Israel to continue maintaining security in the West Bank.
“If I could whisper in Trump’s ear, I would say don’t make mistakes like Obama or [former secretary of state John] Kerry, who thought the Israel-Palestinian conflict was the core problem in the Middle East,” Ya’alon said. “The Sunni-Shi’ite conflicts, the Muslim Brotherhood, and the rise of ISIS have nothing to do with us. The problem is the lack of readiness among the relatively moderate Palestinians like Abbas to accept Israel in any borders, including pre-1967 borders.”
Labor Party leadership candidate Amir Peretz, who is also a former defense minister, wrote to Trump on Wednesday, applauding his efforts to renew the diplomatic process and telling him that the Zionist Union (of which Labor is the main component) would provide a parliamentary safety net for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to advance a deal with the Palestinians.