Moshe Ya’alon has insisted there is “no chance” of a brighter future for the Palestinians while hate and misinformation is a feature of education in the territories – and urged British Jews to join the battle against “fake news” on the conflict.
While he painted an optimistic picture of Israel’s economic and military position, the former defence minister told guests at the Zionist Federation’s annual dinner last night that he saw “no chance” of a settlement to the decades-old conflict on the horizon.
Introduced by ambassador Mark Regev as an “Israeli hero”, he said for too many it’s “not about occupation since ’67 it’s about occupation since ’48. It’s about our very existence”. He attacked the “misconceptions” about the region that persist in International and public discourse.
While he was prepared to give up land for peace and firmly rejected the idea of annexing Area C, he suggested it was futile while Israel doesn’t even feature in Palestinian textbooks and payments are made to terrorists. He said: “Without dealing with education there’s no chance of a better future for them.”
Ya’alon quit as defence minister last year, saying he no longer had faith in Benjamin Netanyahu, and just last week announced plans to establish a new party to contend the next election. But in keeping with a traditional reluctance for opposition figures to attack the government while abroad, he explicitly said he wouldn’t be using the dinner to air “dirty laundry”, instead pointing the 300 guests wishing to know more on his thoughts towards his previous writings.
Reflecting the view of the prime minister, however, the one-time IDF chief of staff insisted the refusal of “too many parties in our tough neighbourhood” to recognise Israel as the nation state of the Jews was the core of the conflict. “We’re still fighting our independence war until today,” he said. “This is ignored in many circles.”
Western leaders were wrong to believe they can democratise parts of the Middle East where life is not sacrificed, he claimed. In doing so they were seeking instant solutions by lack of knowledge, wishful thinking”.
Turning to Syria, he said Israel made it clear it would not take a position from the start, while setting out red lines including violation of its sovereignty. He also pointed to the treatment in Israel of 3,000 Syrians injured in the conflict. “I’m a great believer in interests not illusions, whether using stick or a carrot in this case.”
Ya’alon, who spoke for free, claimed the Obama administration’s “disengagement” from the Middle East had left a vacuum and room for “rogue elements”.
Iran, he argued, has exploited a “bad deal” to dominate to the extent that any decision on whether Hezbollah should go to war with Israel would be taken in Tehran. However, he stressed there was now a “Persian-Arab war” rather than an Israeli-Arab war with Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Egypt and Jordan joining Israel in viewing Iran as the primary enemy.
He said the ZF was leading in that battle against delegitimisation of Israel in the UK and called on British Jews not to “underestimate the challenge” – urging people to challenge “fake news and alternative facts”.
There was also a standing ovation during the dinner for Rami Sherman, who served as an IDF commando during the Entebbe raid to free more than 100 hostages on a hijacked plane from Paris . He detailed the historic raid from the decision of the government to negotiate with the terrorists to the order from unit commander Yoni Netanyahu to prepare for a battle inside the airport terminal, to the moment hostages were led to safety.
ZF chairman Paul Charney reflected on developments since the last annual dinner. He said: “We have a new prime minister – one who is tremendously supportive of Israel – and a leader of opposition who is tremendously supportive of the countries surrounding Israel.”
He said the UK was capital of the delegitimisation campaign against Israel and “time and time again when there is the need the ZF has organised visual support for israel” including welcoming Netanyahu to London outside Downing Street or demonstrating against last year’s UN resolution 2334.
Musical entertainment on the night was provided by singer Tally Koren.