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YADLIN'S VISION FOR ISRAEL'S PEACE & SECURITY

Amos Yadlin

 The issues of security and economics are driving the current Israeli election campaign. Netanyahu and his ruling Likud party have the lead on security while Herzog and his Zionist Camp are coming on strong in the cost of living debate. However Amos Yadlin, Herzog's shadow defense minister, has just unveiled his approach, which is a far cry from Netanyahu's. In an interview with the Ynet website, Yadlin, a retired IDF general, pulled no punches in attacking Netanyahu and Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon.

  First - on the firestorm raging between Washington and Jerusalem over Netanyahu's upcoming address to the U.S. Congress. Netanyahu was not only interfering in a confrontation between Congress and President Barack Obama, he was also trying to make political capital during Israel's election campaign. Yadlin hauled Netanyahu over the coals:

And if the north erupts, America is Israel's sole ally. It is not only irresponsible it also indicates a lack of foresight at this important moment in Israel's relations with America.

 “In conducting relations with the U.S. we must do so in tandem with the President and the Congress. But I think the Prime Minister has interjected Israel in what is an internal American confrontation. We were always a bi-partisan issue with both the Republicans and Democrats supporting Israel. it is forbidden for Israel that Israel become an issue of contention between them. Whoever knows the U.S., and Netanyahu knows it well, is also aware that foreign policy is linked mainly to the executive branch, that is the President. Look at our present situation; we have the tension in the north (with Hezbollah and Iran on the Golan), the Palestinians plan on returning to the UN Security Council (for state recognition). Maybe this time they will get the necessary nine votes and we'll need an American veto. Netanyahu is showing a lack of responsibility by now entering a confrontation with the U.S. President, who can influence a possible nuclear deal with Iran. And if the north erupts, America is Israel's sole ally. It is not only irresponsible it also indicates a lack of foresight at this important moment in Israel's relations with America. Moreover, a speech to Congress will not change an Iranian deal. When we are in office we will work through discrete channels with America's National Security Council, the Pentagon, and Secretary of State.

 The Iranian question is not a lost cause - preventing Iran from becoming a nuclear weapon state is a joint goal of everyone. In Israel it is not a political objective of the Zionist Camp or of the national camp (Likud). By the way, it just happens to be the goal of even President Obama. Despite all the actions taken, Iran is on the threshold of becoming a nuclear weapons state and this itself depends on their decision to do so. If they do, it would only take them only a couple of months to go nuclear,”



And what of the recent air strike on the Golan Heights that killed an Iranian general as well as the son of Hezbollah's former military commander? It has been attributed to Israel and, if so, did Yadlin suspect that Netanyahu had instigated the attack in order to boost his prospects during the election campaign? Yadlin was just as decisive in rejecting this out of hand.

In the past, the Syrians wanted to keep the Golan quiet ... and acted from Lebanon via Hezbollah. But today, Hezbollah ... wants to keep the Lebanese border with Israel quiet as a result of the blow they took from Israel in the 2006 war.

 "No and I have complete confidence in IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz, whom I have served with for many years. This also applies to the Deputy Chief of Staff, the Intelligence Chief and the commander of the northern front. All these IDF officers are professionals in every sense of the word. They are apolitical and have only one concern, the country's defense. In the chain of command, the IDF commanders present their recommendations to the political echelon for approval. It was not connected to the election campaign.

 I think Hezbollah and Iran must be deterred from operating against us from the Golan Heights. Look at what's been happening. In the past, the Syrians wanted to keep the Golan quiet (where they have a joint border with Israel) and acted from Lebanon via Hezbollah. But today, Hezbollah (which is now fighting inside Syria for Assad) wants to keep the Lebanese border with Israel quiet as a result of the blow they took from Israel in the 2006 war. So now Hezbollah is seeking to step up attacks against Israel from a state, called Syria, which is now disintegrating. We cannot allow the build-up of this hostile force against us from the Golan."


 So Yadlin was then asked why he wanted to become the next defense minister if he was satisfied with how the defense establishment was performing. The retired general answered by saying there are many other parameters of Israel's security in addition to the performance of the IDF:

There are other weighty issues linked to Israel's security. Israel's security is linked to the U.S. with which we enjoy strategic cooperation. In recent years, we have not acted correctly and this has caused damage to Israel.

 "There are other weighty issues linked to Israel's security. Israel's security is linked to the U.S. with which we enjoy strategic cooperation. In recent years, we have not acted correctly and this has caused damage to Israel. There is tension, sometimes caused by problematic comments, and as a result sometimes when security questions should have been advanced for the sake of promoting political progress (with the Palestinians), this was not the case.

 U.S. General Allen led a team (during the Kerry mission) that tried to advance security arrangements between Israel and the Palestinians as part of a peace agreement. However, that team is now frozen. If I become defense minister I will strive to promote this issue of security arrangements and thereby advance the diplomatic process to a horizon of peace."


The Jordan Rift Valley (photo credit: CC Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)

 At this point, one of the interviewers noted that Gen. Allen had recommended an IDF pullout from along the Jordan Valley Basin. This was categorically rejected by the current Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon of Likud, who blamed Kerry for messianic and Nobel Peace Prize ambitions. Yaalon recently said that if Israel had accepted the American proposals, the West Bank would have now turned into Hamas territory. On this score, Yadlin also rejected the idea of withdrawing from the Jordan Valley Basin:

 "I do not think for a moment that we must abandon the Jordan Valley Basin. But Israel must try to advance the diplomatic process with the goal of two national states for two peoples. We will be a Jewish state, democratic, secure and just."


 But did Yadlin believe there was really a Palestinian partner for peace after they had rejected or not even replied to so many Israeli peace proposals in the past?

I am not convinced that Mahmoud Abbas is a peace partner, but I want to try again ... We must make clear that that Israel is prepared to take steps required of her and if there will be no peace the problem lies with the Palestinians.

 "The fact that the Palestinians do not want to reach a peace accord, or that they have great problems in doing so, is not new to me. I identified this when I served as IDF Intelligence Commander in 2008. But we, as a Jewish state, must constantly seek peace, and this we have failed to do. Nor do I think we have been taking the right steps recently. I am not convinced that Mahmoud Abbas is a peace partner, but I want to try again. If that doesn't succeed the guilt will not fall on us. We must come with clean hands to the negotiations. We must make clear that that Israel is prepared to take steps required of her and if there will be no peace the problem lies with the Palestinians.

 And then what? We should go for a regional solution with the Arab Sunni states. If we and the Palestinians are involved in a zero sum game and the Palestinians are not ready to compromise - not on the right of return of refugees, and not to an end to the conflict or to recognize Israel as a Jewish national state or the need for security arrangements - then under these circumstances we must try and bring the Sunni Arab states to the table."


 Of all the criticism leveled at Israel, settlement building on the West Bank tops the list. If the Zionist Camp forms the next government, Yadlin presented its position on settlements.

We will build in Jerusalem and in the settlements blocs, but we would not build in problematic places.

 "We would not allow, what Rabin called 'political settlements' beyond the line we think should be the final border of Israel. We would not permit settlement building to be the fuel for delegitimizing the state of Israel. We will build in Jerusalem and in the settlements blocs, but we would not build in problematic places. In effect, we would return to the letter of President George W. Bush in 2005 to Ariel Sharon. It stipulated that Israel could build in the settlement blocs and in Jerusalem. There has never been a quarrel with Israel about this. The quarrel has been over Israel's building beyond the perceived line of Israel's future border and that this bars progress to a peace agreement."


 Gen. (ret.) Amos Yadlin is spelling out a new vision for Israel's peace and security in the event he becomes the next prime minister.




 

David Essing

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