Mugged by Palestinian Reality
By: Joseph Puder
FrontPageMagazine.com | Monday, December 22, 2008
Few Israeli public figures have undergone the kind of transformation that former Israel Defense Forces (IDF) Chief of Staff (2002-2005) Moshe Yaalon has. The only other figure to do so is Israel ’s Foreign Minister and current Kadima Party leader, Tzipi Livni. Her transformation however, was in the reverse. The daughter of the former Chief of Operations for pre-State underground Irgun, Livni has become the great hope of the Israeli political left. Yaalon, in contrast, is a son of devoted Mapai party (the party led by Ben Gurion, Israel’s first Prime Minister that has subsequently become the Labor party) members, and great admirers of Ben Gurion, as well as, a Leftist kibbutz member, has become a member of the Likud Party and a leading candidate for the post of Defense Minister, should the Likud form the next government.
Livni’s transformation and joining up with Prime Minister Ariel Sharon when he formed the new Kadima party was more a matter of opportunism in her quest for position and power rather than ideology.
For Moshe Yaalon it was never power or opportunism that motivated him. He could easily have been a Sharon favorite and had his C-O-S tenure extended by another year, had he agreed with “Arik” (Sharon ’s nickname) on the unilateral withdrawal from Gaza (which many saw as a ploy by Sharon to avert attention from his financial misdeeds.) Yaalon, driven by a genuine concern for the future of his nation, undertook a careful analysis of Israel ’s situation, ultimately confronting the failures of Israel ’s Labor-Kadima led governments (Labor-Kadima) since 1992.
Yaalon initially agreed with the Oslo Accords as a way to measure Palestinian sincerity regarding the acceptance of Israel as a Jewish State and their willingness to forgo the armed struggle and employment of terrorism. The past 15 years, however, have convinced him that the basic assumption and paradigms of the Israeli peace camp are wrong and are dangerous to Israel ’s existence.
In his recently published book The Longer Shorter Way, Yaalon documents how the policies of Peres, Barak, Sharon, and Olmert with regard to the Palestinians and Lebanon have backfired. His conclusion is that these leaders, their supporters in the Israeli media and leading Israeli business tycoons refused to recognize reality and engaged, instead, in wishful thinking that has endangered Israel ’s security and existence. Yaalon cautions Israeli leaders to “keep both their eyes open to the reality around them.”
As Chief of Military Intelligence 1995-1998, Central Command chief 1998-2000, Deputy Chief-of-Staff 2000-2002 and Chief of Staff, Yaalon was involved in the implementation of the Oslo Accords. In the process, his idealistic notions of peace with the Palestinians turned into pessimism as repeated Palestinian violations of the Accords and Arafat’s encouragement of suicide bombing proved that the Palestinians rejected peace with the Jewish State.
In retrospect he found Shimon Peres’ declarations that Arafat and his followers are “our partners for peace, ” or that the “Palestinians accepted the idea of a Palestinian State in the West Bank and Gaza living side by side with Israel in peace instead of seeking to replace it” as utterly untrue and delusional.
Under the provisions of the Oslo Accords, Arafat committed to changing the paragraphs of the Palestinian Covenant that specifically reject Israel ’s right to exist as a Jewish State. Israel permitted Palestinian terrorist leaders who rejected Oslo and any negotiations with Israel to enter Gaza in 1996 and participate in the Covenant deliberations. Arafat, once again employed one of his tricks. The English version said that the changes would be addressed “right away.” The Arabic version stated, however, “It will be done in the future.” To those PLO members who refused the change, Arafat hinted that the Arabic version is “the real one.” Arafat’s response to the Americans and Israelis was that a judicial committee of the PLO would undertake the changes in the Covenant, and that the committee would convene in six months…The judicial committee that should have made the changes never convened.
Yaalon, as Chief of Military Intelligence, asked to meet with Prime Minister Peres and alerted him that Arafat had not made the necessary changes. Peres nevertheless praised Arafat for the “changes” and declared to the press in a celebratory manner that Arafat and the PLO “changed the Covenant. Yaalon recognized there and then that it was not only Arafat who has fooled us again and again with impunity, “the Israeli leadership willingly fooled itself.”
Prime Minister Ehud Barak’s precipitous and unilateral withdrawal from Southern Lebanon empowered the Hezbollah and culminated in Israel ’s failure to win the Second Lebanon War in 2006. Yaalon had warned against the unilateral withdrawal from Gaza, and the removal of the IDF from the Gaza-Egypt border. As a consequence of that withdrawal, “Hamastan” was created in Gaza with serious implications for Israel.
The demand for Peace Now, and in dealing with the top Palestinians (Arafat and Abu Mazen) leaders instead of beginning a peace process from the bottom up, is the root of Israel ’s leadership failure to achieve success with the Palestinians, according to Yaalon.
Yaalon describes in his book the process of self-deception by Peres, Sharon, and Olmert, and how they deceived the Israeli public as well. Yaalon provides the details on how the leadership’s basic assumptions fell apart, and how this very leadership deliberately ignored reality, while projecting fantasies to the Israeli public.
The process of self-deception, and deceiving the public was done with the full cooperation and support of the Israeli press. The triangle of wealth-government-press enabled the deception to occur, with dire consequences to Israel ’s security.
As Yaalon sees it, Israel and Zionism require a new strategy for the 21st century, one that is based on clarity and not obstruction of reality. Israel needs a clear understanding of the challenges it faces and not delusions. Moral clarity is essential, according to Yaalon, and “a vision that would excite the Israeli citizenry and the world Jewry, and especially the younger generation, to seek partnership in the Zionist enterprise and its fulfillment in the State of Israel. The key, Yaalon believes, is in a leadership that projects a vision and a way, and with an education that stresses values that strengthen the belief in the “justness of our (Israel) cause.”
Yaalon’s transformation and ideas, conceived in the reality of living and fighting for Israel ’s survival, are beyond ideology and self-interest. Yaalon may very well be the most honest observer of Israel ’s reality. Israel ’s political scene needs his fresh and honest approach.
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