Netanyahu's rivals back prime minister in UN crisis

Sa'ar and Ya'alon are both senior Likud figures resigned from the cabinet and took a break from politics due in part to disputes with Netanyahu.

December 27, 2016 14:05
3 minute read.
Moshe Ya'alon, Benjamin Netanyahu, Gideon Saar

Moshe Ya'alon, Benjamin Netanyahu, Gideon Saar. (photo credit: JPOST STAFF)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu received unexpected backing in his battle against UN Security Council Resolution 2334 Tuesday from two rivals who have recently been frequent critics: former interior minister Gideon Sa’ar and former defense minister Moshe Ya’alon.

Sa’ar and Ya’alon are both senior Likud figures resigned from the cabinet and took a break from politics due in part to disputes with Netanyahu.

Nevertheless, they both felt it necessary to speak out against the UN resolution and US President Barack Obama’s steps that permitted it to pass.

“I don’t believe the explanations of the Obama administration, which are not authentic,” Sa’ar told Army Radio. “I think there was an ambush here.
US abstains from UN vote to end Israeli settlement building

That is why I choose to support the prime minister when Israel is under attack, and I think every Israeli patriot should do that.”

Sa’ar rejected charges from Ben Rhodes, Obama’s deputy national security adviser for strategic communications, that the resolution was brought on by Netanyahu’s policies on construction in Judea and Samaria.

“It is not right to blame ourselves,” he said. “This government isn’t building more than others. I don’t believe Obama administration claims that the resolution came because of outpost law. They were planning this ambush for an entire year.”

Ya’alon wrote on his Facebook page in English, that the resolution was “mistaken, immoral and counter-productive.”

“It will resolve nothing,” he wrote. “It will only embolden those who have no interest in peace!” Ya’alon called Obama not vetoing the resolution “a huge mistake.” He recently returned from a stint in America’s capital as a fellow at the Washington Institute, a public educational foundation dedicated to scholarly research and informed debate on US interests in the Middle East.

In that capacity, he wrote a diplomatic plan for the January/ February 2017 issue of Foreign Affairs Magazine called “How to Build Middle East Peace.” Although the plan was written long before UN Resolution 2334, it relates to international efforts to blame the lack of progress in Middle East peacemaking on West Bank settlements in a section called “Why settlements are not the problem.”

Ya’alon wrote that it is a misconception that settlements are a crucial obstacle to peace and that the removal of those settlements would pave the way for a resolution of the conflict.

“History has shown that this is simply not the case,” he wrote. “The persistence of the Arab-Jewish conflict for more than 150 years is not because Jews have settled in a particular part of the land of Israel but because Arabs have rejected the Jewish right to settle anywhere in the land of Israel.”

He said the withdrawal of all settlers from the Gaza Strip proved incorrect the theory advanced in the UN resolution that settlers were preventing peace.

“The existence of Israeli settlements in the territories has never prevented the Israelis and the Palestinians from negotiating with each other or even reaching agreements,” he wrote. “Since 1993, Israel and the PLO have reached numerous political, economic, and technical accords, even as Israeli governments – left, right, and center – continued investing in settlements in the territories.”

Citing the small area of the West Bank that is controlled by Jewish communities, he said the settlements were not large enough to prevent the emergence of a Palestinian state. He said Israel had kept a commitment it made to the administration of former US president George W. Bush to limit West Bank construction to areas within the geographic boundaries of existing settlements in such a way as to allow for the natural growth of those communities.

“Regrettably, for internal political reasons, the Israeli government has been shy about publicly affirming its continued commitment to this policy – a commitment that it has kept despite Washington’s breaking its end of the deal,” Ya’alon wrote. “Israel should be clear about its policy, in the hope that the new administration in Washington might return to a more realistic approach to the issue of settlements.”

The bottom-up approach to peacemaking Ya’alon called for in the article would focus on building up the Palestinian Authority economically, encouraging the stability of its democratic institutions, cooperating with its security forces, and a regional initiative that would bring in Arab states interested in helping to manage and eventually solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

“I favor a policy of bottom- up change and incremental progress, trying to build a durable structure of peace on solid foundations rather than sand,” Ya’alon wrote.

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