‘Too much hate in our political system’
MOSHE YA’ALON, Israel’s former defence minister is, as befits a former chief of staff, on the warpath.
His target, however, is not the Arabs or the Palestinians. Instead, Mr Ya’alon, who terminated his membership of Likud two weeks ago, has the prime minister and the present government in his sights — and he speaks with open disdain of the party. Likud, he says, is so changed “that Ze’ev Jabotinsky and Menachem Begin couldn’t get elected now. Benny Begin [the former prime minister’s son] is regarded as a leftist”.
Since resigning as defence minister in 2016, Mr Ya’alon has been carefully laying the groundwork for a comeback. Speaking to the JC during a brief London visit as the guest of the Zionist Federation for its annual dinner, Mr Ya’alon said he had established an NGO called the Association for Alternative Leadership. It is not yet a political party but — mindful of Prime Minister Netanyahu’s warning before leaving for China this week that he might call early elections — Mr Ya’alon said: “I would prefer more time, but I should be ready in any given scenario.”
The normally carefully spoken “Bogie” Ya’alon is furious at the direction in which Israel appears to be going. “What is the meaning of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state? It’s about Jewish values, the sanctity of life, the way we treat ‘the other’. I found in our political system too much hatred generated by politicians.”
He is far from left-wing, but speaks with passion about a prime minister “obsessed” with controlling the media. “This is worrisome, to say the least. Or the way that the government treats the Supreme Court.”
Since his resignation, Mr Ya’alon has travelled all over the country talking to as many different kinds of people as he can. Pointedly, he notes:
“I don’t have my own newspaper or my own TV channel”, and while he has learned to make full use of social media, he is sure “the best way to convince people is to meet them”.
He senses Israelis have had enough of the Netanyahu era. “It’s because of the corruption investigations, his obsession with controlling the media, which is not the democratic way.”
Mr Ya’alon hopes that he can appeal to Kulanu, Yesh Atid and Labour voters. All the centrist parties, he says, “see no chance for a final settlement”. Nevertheless, he says there are “too many MKs, and I’m not talking about ministers, who have never met a single Arab — and that’s why they are so extremist. They don’t understand that we have to embrace the Israeli Arabs into our society, and then to find a way to manage life with the Palestinians.”
If he were prime minister tomorrow, Mr Ya’alon says his first steps would be “to unify the Israeli people, Jews and non-Jews, Ashkenazi and Sephardim, religious and non-religious, and to deal with the socio-economic situation”. Despite his confidence that Israel can find a method of living with the Palestinians, Mr Ya’alon told the ZF dinner that one of his chief concerns was Palestinian education. “They are told, if you kill more Jews you get more money. Without dealing with education there’s no chance of a better future for them.”