Ya’alon: We are still fighting the War of Independence

Defense minister dismisses 'political' calls for a new major military operation in the West Bank.

Former defense minister Moshe Yaalon (photo credit: REUTERS)
Former defense minister Moshe Yaalon
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Israel is still fighting its War of Independence, Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon said on Sunday, in reference to the ongoing wave of Palestinian terrorist attacks on Israelis. He added that calls by some political figures for a new West Bank operation are out of touch with the security realities on the ground.
Speaking to Israel Radio, the defense minister said the conflict with the Palestinians "did not start today and won't end [tomorrow]," adding that Israel has known more severe waves of terrorism in the past.
“We are activating all of our capabilities to bring this to an end, and I believe we will succeed,” Ya’alon told Aryeh Golan, Israel Radio’s morning news program host.
Increased numbers of IDF units are carrying out security missions in Judea and Samaria, arresting dozes of suspects every night, and Israel has sought to shut down sources of incitement. The IDF closed down two Palestinian radio stations - including the Darim station in Hebron overnight between Saturday and Sunday.
“We see soldiers in all junctions, guarding and beefing up their presence,” Ya’alon said.
Asked about calls by MK Avigdor Liberman (Yisrael Beytenu) to renew targeted assassinations and “switch to attack,” Ya’alon replied: “We have been on the attack since Operation Defensive Shield [in 2002], from the moment we entered Area A, we have not stopped entering Area A. Thus, there is no need for targeted assassinations. If we have information about a terrorist anywhere, we simply go in and arrest him, whether he is in the heart of Area A, in a Jenin refugee camp, or in the kasbah of Nablus.”
“This time we do not need an Operation Defensive Shield,” Ya’alon said, dismissing such calls as “slogans.”
“There is no need for [full military] divisions. Undercover forces move in, make the arrest, and exit.
Dozens of such operations occur in a day,” he said.
Asked about a comment by the Binyamin Regional Council chairman Avi Roeh, who said that Zionist Union head Isaac Herzog would have done a better job of tackling knife and vehicular terrorism, Ya’alon retorted, “When politics starts getting mixed up with security, it does not improve security.”
Ya’alon said his advice is for people to “be patient.”
“Our test is not one of immediate results. In these types of conflicts, there is a need for endurance and determination, as well as creativity, and we are doing this,” he said.
“This won’t end immediately, and all of the various ideas or natural expectations for some sort of military maneuvers that will deal with the situation and finish it [instantly, are wrong]. We have been in conflict for 120 years already, and throughout 67 years of independence.
We will have to continue to struggle. We have had much more difficult challenges int the past, and we will know how to beat this too.”
Ya’alon added that “the fact that most of the Palestinian public is not at city squares or in riot flash points stems from the fact that they rely on our economy, that they live off our economy, and we are developing this.”
Asked to comment on recent assessments by Military Intelligence Chief Maj.-Gen. Herzl Levi, who said that many of the Palestinian youths carrying out lonewolf attacks see no future for themselves and are desperate, Ya’alon said: “These Palestinian youths are disappointed and desperate, first of all, because of their leadership. We are not at fault for everything and, hence, on this matter I fully agree with the remarks by the head of military intelligence.”
The defense minister added that a 13-year-old Palestinian boy living near the capital’s Pisgat Ze’ev neighborhood does not set out to commit a terrorist attack because of the lack of a diplomatic process or because he opposes an occupation, calling such claims “nonsense.”
“There is a problem that from a young age they absorb venom, and their education programs are filled with incitement. The incitement did not begin with the Temple Mount or blood libels that say we are executing those who attack us and plant knives in their hands to justify the killing.
“It starts the moment they are born. This wild incitement causes the hatred for us, and then they become desperate, even after studying at a university and receiving a higher education, when they are not employed by the Palestinian Authority. The donations from abroad [for the Palestinian Authority] do not form a real economy.
So that is the reason. We are not at fault for everything,” Ya’alon said.
For 20 years, Israel has tried to reach a peace agreement with the Palestinians and has been repeatedly rejected by the PA, he said.
Turning his sights to the activities of the Russian Air Force in Syria, and the downing of a Russian fighter jet by Turkey, Ya’alon said that a coordination mechanism in place between Moscow and Jerusalem has prevented any “misunderstandings.”
He added that, “Russian planes have no intention of attacking us, so there is no need to automatically shoot them down, even if they accidentally [breach our air space].”
Since Russia began air strikes in Syria, a Russian jet accidentally strayed 1.6 km. into Israeli air space. “We immediately got on our communication channel, and the pilot immediately returned to Syrian territory... Ahead of time, they of course let us know when they approach our territory.
“This is part of the coordination channel, and as we don’t interfere with them as a policy, the same happens in Syria, and it is good that they do not interfere with us flying and acting in accordance with our interests.”
Asked to comment on reports that he and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu are at loggerheads over the appointment of the next head of the Security Branch of the Defense Ministry, a sensitive role, Ya’alon said: “A set process was carried out by the nomination committee, which unanimously and unsurprisingly recommended the best candidate, [Nir Ben Moshe].
This has to receive government approval, and I believe we will reach approval some time. The delay is unnecessary.”
Ya’alon said the delay in Ben Moshe’s appointment was regrettable, adding, “I thought this would reach government approval sooner, and I believe that this will eventually happen.”