Josef Olmert

Moshe Ya’alon is the key man in the negotiations

The relentless Secretary of State John Kerry may know something that we all do not, or he does not know anything… but it cannot be that the two statements are simultaneously correct, so whom to believe to?

Should we believe anonymous ”diplomatic sources”[people in P.M Netanyahu office], who claim , that Kerry is ”ignorant”,
”superficial”, and carrier of ”ridiculous proposals”, or to ”well-placed sources”[ people in P.M Netanyahu office…yes, maybe
even the same people…], who claim that unspecified ”something” is happening behind the closed doors of the Kerry-mediated
Israeli-Palestinian negotiations?

I , of course, do not know what exactly is going on, but I do sense that ”something” is brewing up, and that there is
a very serious talk about the core issues of the conflict, including Jerusalem, refugees, borders and others.
Leaks from Israeli sources are usually very common, but this time, there hardly are any such leaks, which in itself
is an indication to me , that the Israeli side, particularly the P.M,has no interest in anything coming prematurely to the open,
something that can derail the entire process, and unleash American frustration, possibly more than that.

Netanyahu is afraid of such leaks, because of two main reasons;
First, he himself has not yet made up his mind about what is cooked by Kerry and co. , hence the stories appearing in Israel
Hayom , Netanyahu’s unofficial publication , do reflect a genuine soul searching on the part of the P.M .
Netanyahu who has an historic vision of how Israel should conduct itself may be instinctively opposed to the American proposals, which cannot
be really too appealing to anyone from the ”national camp”.
However, Netanyahu the world statesman , the brilliant former minister of the treasury, the best possible observer
of the American political scene, and the experienced politician, knows that he simply cannot turn his back to the mounting world
pressures, which may be originating in Europe, but get substantial encouragement, though not public, from the Obama Administration.
Netanyahu REALLY agonizes over the choices he faces, he REALLY wants a successful end for the talks, but he REALLY
is worried, that the suggested deal may offer more risks than positive opportunities.
This is a seminal moment in his career, a moment when the two most crucial issues affecting Israel’s national security, that of Iran, and that
of the Palestinians are simultaneously put on the table under world and American circumstances which are not optimal
from an Israeli perspective.

The P.M has few allies in his own party, where too many MKs make noises of rebellion,his senior partner Avigdor Lieberman
is unpredictable and issues demands[giving up on areas populated with Israeli Arabs], which are not so realistic, if we are
to put it mildly, and right of Likud, Naftali Bennett and the Jewish Home party are averse to the very idea of ANY
agreement with the Palestinians.
Netanyahu needs ,therefore, somebody on his side who can tilt the balance within Likud, and also in the general public,
which judging by the polls is not so enthusiastic about the entire process.
This ”somebody” should be a man with security credentials, a man that can convey the message, that national security is not
going to be compromised , so the overall agreement can be acceptable.
It was MR.Security, Yitzhak Rabin who made the Oslo Accords acceptable to the then majority of Israeli public opinion, later
another Mr. Security, Ehud Barak, rejected the second Camp David formula, compiled by President Clinton, and again had public support, and in 2005, it was
Ariel Sharon who carried the day with the Gaza Disengagement plan.

Moshe Ya’alon is the current Mr. Security, and his position is still an enigma.
His latest public statement, according to which he prefers an academic boycott of Israel over dangerous security arrangements
may give a clue as to his line of thinking, but there are other clues, chief among them, his close association with
and loyalty to the P.M , the fact that he makes a clear distinction between the security issues ,including those connected
with the settlements, and his public and repeated rebuke of the excesses of some settlers.
Ya’alon came from the Left Wing, a very common phenomenon in Israeli politics, much like Raphael Eitan, Rechavam Ze’evi
and Ariel Sharon, but it seems that in his case, the focus of the new approach is less ideologically motivated, and
is much more concerned with a realistic approach to the conflict. He definitely underwent an ideological change since the days
of ”the blue shirt” and the Kibbutz, but he still projects an image of pragmatic hawkishness, or maybe I am completely wrong…
and I hope I am not…
I know him personally, and i acknowledge his intellectual honesty and sincere convictions, so I, for one, am
eagerly awaiting his public clarification as to where he stands, understanding that if HE will define the Kerry
package as ”dangerous” security-wise, then it should be rejected.

With the risk of being very off-mark, I take the plunge and predict , that Moshe Ya’alon will support
an agreement[if achieved], will back up Netanyahu [if the P.M will also take the plunge…]
and consequently will be the right person to deliver it to the justifiably-suspicious Israeli public.

About the Author
Dr Josef Olmert, a Middle East expert, is currently an adjunct professor at the University of South Carolina
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