In an interview published today in the Israeli newspaper Yediot Ahronot, Moshe Ya’alon — Israel’s Vice Prime Minister, Minister of Strategic Affairs, and a close adviser of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu — reveals that the lame efforts to resume the negotiations with the Palestinians are just “maneuvers” by the Netanyahu administration. Ya’alon’s comments explain that the gestures made by Netanyahu — from the qualified endorsement of the two-state solution to the decision to partially and temporarily freeze construction in the settlements — are all strategically intended to allow for greater settlement expansion in the future.
“And I say so out of knowledge,” Ya’alon told Yediot. “Nobody in the forum of seven [senior cabinet ministers] thinks that we can reach an agreement with the Palestinians.” Yediot Ahronot reports (print version, translated from Hebrew):
Q: So why all these games of make-believe negotiations? It’s possible to announce that we will not reach an agreement, and that is all.
YA’ALON: Because in the political establishment there are pressures. Peace Now from within and other elements from without. So you have to maneuver. But what I’m saying now has to be given over to the Americans, and I hope that they will understand.
Some of what we have to do is maneuver with the American administration and the European establishment, which are also nourished by Israeli elements, which create the illusion that an agreement can be reached.
Ya’alon disclosed that Netanyahu has made clear that he intends to increase settlement activity as soon as the freeze expires. “The prime minister reiterates all the time,” Ya’alon said, “and also brought a decision to the security cabinet that says clearly, that immediately after the freeze, we will continue to build in Judea and Samaria as we did before.”
Q: Will we evacuate settlements in the end?
YA’ALON: I do not accept that. What has happened to us in recent years obligates us to stop with everything connected to withdrawal.
The Netanyahu administration’s refusal to offer any compromise on settlement expansion in Jerusalem so angered President Obama that the president “walked out of his meeting” with the Prime Minister. The Netanyahu camp is huddling for discussions today, reportedly considering how to respond to Obama’s demands. It remains to be seen whether they will offer genuine accommodation or just more “maneuvers.”
(Hebrew translation provided by Americans for Peace Now.)