Analysis: Ya'alon's priorities

Incoming defense minister opposed to strike on Iran, but stance could change in light of new intelligence.

yaalon begin pic 311 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
yaalon begin pic 311
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Incoming Defense Minister Moshe "Bogie" Ya'alon has coveted the position he's about to step into for years. A former IDF chief of staff, Ya'alon is a veteran defense figure who served for nearly 40 years in the military, and should feel very much at home at his new bureau at the Ministry of Defense in Tel Aviv.
Ya'alon will have to deal with mammoth security issues that are facing Israel these days, though he may take a different approach to some of these challenges than his predecessor, Ehud Barak, did.
The new defense minister provided the public with a glimpse of his priorities on Sunday, when he used a Facebook post to list the defense issues he will soon be tackling.
First on the list was, naturally, the Iranian nuclear program, which threatens Israel, the Middle East, and global security as a whole. According to unconfirmed yet widespread reports, Ya'alon has, until now, been in the camp of those opposed to a military strike against Iran's nuclear program, preferring to let the US take the lead.
However, even if the reports are true, Ya'alon's stance could change in light of new intelligence or new developments.
Secondly, Ya'alon made reference to the Middle East instability that is washing over nearly all of Israel's neighbors. Under Ehud Barak's watch, the IDF has made good progress in shifting its focus towards emerging terror threats from Syria - home to an arsenal of chemical weapons - and the Sinai Peninsula, and Ya'alon will be seeking to continue the preparations.
Hezbollah in southern Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza are threats that cannot be separated from the regional instability. Hezbollah, armed with over 60,000 rockets and well trained guerrillas, remains the most formidable enemy in Israel's immediate area. The IDF has spent recent years intensively training itself for the next encounter with the Shi'ite terror group, which is currently attempting to target Israeli civilians overseas. Ya'alon will be briefed in full on these preparations.
The last defense issue mentioned by Ya'alon is the "Israeli - Palestinian issue," - a reference to the stalled diplomatic process vis-a-vis the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank. Ya'alon's position on this issue is well known - he holds that the Palestinian leadership in Ramallah is not a viable peace partner at this time.
Irrespectively, Ya'alon has repeatedly condemned acts of far-right "price tag" violence, comparing them to firing a bullet "at the leg of the state of the Israel and the head of settlements."
He will also need to contend, as he acknowledged on Sunday, with calls for a decrease to the defense budget in light of economic troubles and the need to safeguard basic state services like health, education, and social services.