“YOU can’t annex something that belongs to you,” Israeli MK and Telem Party leader Moshe Ya’alon said during a Zionist Federation of Australia (ZFA) webinar last Sunday.
But the former IDF head, who served as defence minister under Benjamin Netanyahu before resigning in 2016 and contesting Israel’s recent elections with Blue and White before its split, told ZFA’s Bren Carlill that the discourse around applying sovereignty to parts of the West Bank is being used to divert the political discussion away from Netanyahu’s corruption trial.
“I believe that we are paying a price for it,” he said.
“Why raise this issue, why bring it to the international political arena to growing [European criticism]? It doesn’t serve our interests.”
Ya’alon said his preference in the current stalemate is to “make progress step by step according to [Yitzhak] Rabin’s vision”.
“I don’t want to have a binational state … I don’t want [Palestinians] to vote to the Knesset or to be second-class citizens in Israel,” he said.
“So in between avoiding having a binational state on one hand, on the other hand realising that there is no chance for a final settlement … I claim we have to make progress from the bottom up.”
He said the Trump peace plan, which “is actually in a way very close to Rabin’s vision”, has to be embraced “with reservations”.
“It changed the narrative, it changed the paradigm,” he said.
“There is better understanding in Washington to what the conflict is all about. It’s not about settlements, it’s not about ’67 lines, it’s about our very existence.”
He added that one of the important elements in the plan is “recognising Israel’s right to live and to settle everywhere in the land of Israel”.
“The end state which I believe in, which Yitzhak Rabin believed in, which Yigal Allon believed in, and it comes even in the Trump plan [is] an autonomy,” he said.
“The Palestinian political entity should be demilitarised and we have the overall responsibility for security. I don’t see any other option.”
Noting that “the Palestinians are dependent on our economy” with 200,000 Palestinians employed by Israelis, water and energy coming from Israel and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas dependent on Israeli security for his political survival, he said, “We will have at the end of the process a Palestinian autonomy which will be connected to Israel like a Siamese twin.”
Turning to internal Israeli politics, asked if Netanyahu will cede the premiership to Benny Gantz after 18 months as agreed, Ya’alon said “no”.
He went on to criticise Israel’s current political climate.
“We should be unified in Israel. This is one of our national security strengths,” he said.
“For a better future for the country, any leadership of the country shouldn’t base its political power by generating hatred and inciting against each other.
“Unfortunately Benny Gantz demonstrating weakness decided to join the government and I decided to be in the opposition. And now the challenge is to create another alternative.”