Analysis: Ya'alon displays his full political colors

"Bogie isn't a right-winger," the former chief of General Staff, Moshe Ya'alon's friends regularly tell journalists, "he just has unorthodox views on a number of issues." These gallant attempts to keep Ya'alon above politics have become risible as he continues giving media interviews every month or so. In the last two years since he was unceremoniously deposed from his post, Ya'alon has only gradually revealed his personal beliefs, aside from the general knowledge that he lost his job through opposing disengagement from Gaza and Northern Samaria, beginning first with hints and with every new appearance letting us in a bit more on his thinking. But in his interview Saturday night on Channel 2 he seems to have totally shed any inhibitions. He checked all the boxes: He's against a two-state solution, doesn't think that Abu Mazen is a partner to peace talks, believes the disengagement led directly to the Second Lebanon War, considers the Israeli Arabs a significant danger to the Jewish state and argues that we should have already launched a major offensive back into Gaza to eradicate the Kassam launchers. This adds up to a comprehensive set of policies that in political terms set him somewhat to the right of Likud leader Binyamin Netanyahu. The only political question he hasn't answered is when he plans to take the plunge. Ya'alon entering politics could cause a major shake-up, both within the political establishment and in the larger public arena. Since leaving the military, he has succeeded in building an image for himself of a Zionist ideologue, free of self-interest. So far he has resisted the calls to go into public life, instead preferring to join the Shalem Center's new Institute for Strategic Studies as a "distinguished fellow." But soon the media interest in him will start to wane, and Ya'alon will realize that the press is less bothered with listening to an ex-general now in academia than to an ex-general about to run for office. That might cause him to alter his plans. Since he will be interested in gaining real influence as a politician, the only realistic option for Ya'alon, with his current views, would be to join the Likud. On the one hand, that would be a windfall for Netanyahu, who despite his continuing surge in the opinion polls has yet to attract any new major league personalities. Ya'alon would be perfect as he appeals to various, disparate parts of the electorate. A kibbutznik with impeccable socialist roots in 1950s Kiryat Hayim, with a military career that few if any can rival, Ya'alon is that rare kind of politician who can make contact both with the right-wing's traditional constituencies and the wide middle-class, secular, Ashkenazi population that has proved so elusive for the Likud in the past. For Netanyahu he could be a dream No. 2, especially when the party leader surveys what is currently on offer in the depleted ranks of the Likud. But there is another side to that coin. Ya'alon is the only potential right-wing candidate currently capable of realistically challenging Netanyahu for the leadership slot. The two have never been close. Ya'alon was one of the clique of generals of whom Netanyahu said: "They have got to change their diskettes" after he came to power in 1996. The officer-turned-academic might lack a veracious political appetite, but that doesn't mean he would remain content as Netanyahu's deputy.