Former defense minister Moshe Ya’alon declared on Wednesday that there would not be a final settlement between Israel and the Palestinians in the near future, but expressed opposition to annexing parts of the West Bank and support for political separation from the Palestinians.Ya’alon, who earlier this week quit the Likud party in order to set up his own political party, was strongly critical of elements within the Israeli right wing for their support for annexing parts or all of Judea and Samaria, but advocated for conflict management in the face of regional upheaval in the Middle East.Since the election of US President Donald Trump, Bayit Yehudi in particular, along with several Likud MKs, have been urging the government to annex either Area C of the West Bank or the entire territory, although the prime minister has resisted such steps so far.
“We have to make our own decisions about what we want. I am happy that we have political separation from the Palestinians. I am happy that they have their own government, parliament, their own president, that they don’t have to go to the Knesset,” said Ya’alon at a briefing to the foreign press.“On the one hand, we are not going to reach a final settlement in the coming future; but on the other hand, I don’t want to rule them, and I can live with two Palestinian political entities, [including] Hamastan [in Gaza].“That’s why I strongly reject the idea to annex now, to annex Area C, to settle everywhere.... Is that in our interest?” Nevertheless, Ya’alon said he supports “the idea to settle Jews,” and that just like he supported the rights of Arabs to live throughout Israel and the West Bank, so, too, does he support the rights of Jews to live in the same areas. “I cannot accept this idea that there are certain territories in the Land of Israel that are forbidden for Jews,” he stated, but said that all settlement should be in accordance with Israeli interests, a set government policy and the rule of law.The former defense minister was removed from his post by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu last year, after falling out with him publicly over several issues, and was replaced by Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman, whom Netanyahu brought into the coalition to stabilize his government.Ya’alon is now creating a political party to run in future elections “for our national leadership.”Ya’alon also discussed what he said were the three radical Islamist movements that are dominating the region: the Iranian-Shi’a hegemony, the radical Sunni jihadists and the advancement of the agenda of the Muslim Brotherhood and “neo-Ottoman” designs of Turkey, under the leadership of its president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan.Ya’alon said that the Iranian hegemony, with an axis from Tehran through Baghdad, Damascus and Beirut, and extending to Yemen as well, was a result of the nuclear deal signed by Iran with the US and global powers.And he attributed the rise of Erdogan’s Muslim Brotherhood agenda, including support for Hamas, and the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, Syria and Jordan, to the disengagement of the US from the Middle East.“The vacuum has been filled by these three elements struggling for hegemony in the region, and will dominate the political struggle and military, economic struggles in the region for the years to come.”For this reason, Ya’alon said, the Middle East is likely to remain divided and unstable for many years, and insisted: “Forget about stability, forget about old thinking,” he declared, describing countries in the region as “artificial nation states,” and adding that anyone who believes that Syria could be reunited “doesn’t know what they’re talking about.” Instead, he said, Syria is likely to remain divided into demographically homogeneous enclaves, including one for the Alawites, the religious minority to which Syrian President Bashar Assad belongs, Syrian “Sunnistan” and Syrian Kurdistan.
Knesset passes settlement bill on February 6, 2017 (credit: REUTERS)