On Thursday, in a lecture he gave to youth at the Ahavat Yisrael Ulpana school in Beit Shemesh, former Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon said that in his view there is no need to evacuate settlers, and that at least one million Jews could yet settle in Judea and Samaria, Ha’aretz reported on Sunday. He also declared that there was no chance of bridging the gaps with the Palestinian Authority and reaching a peace agreement with them, since their representatives would not agree to any territorial compromise.
“On our side they say, ‘Fine, we’ll evacuate Jews.’ I say, No way we will not evacuate Jews or Arabs,” Ya’alon said, noting that “on the existing map, we can preserve our interests, so that there will not be a bi-national state.” He also said that “there are no settlers on every hill. There’s enough room to settle in Judea and Samaria for another million or two [Jews], in places that suit our policy. This should be done through a balanced policy.”
Since Avi Gabbai was elected as Labor Party leader last July, he has been former defense minister Moshe Ya’alon, to join Labor ahead of the next elections. The two have had a good relationship serving together in Benjamin Netanyahu’s government. In fact, Gabbai, who served the Environment Minister for Kulanu, resigned from his post and from the Knesset after Ya’alon had been dumped in favor of Avigdor Liberman (Yisrael Beiteinu). Gabai has been saying behind closed doors there’s no daylight between Ya’alon’s positions and his own on security, and that Ya’alon’s opposition to a Palestinian state does not stem from ideology but from real politics.
Last Monday, Gabai told Channel 2 News there was no need to evacuate settlements as part of a peace agreement: “If you make a peace agreement, then you can find solutions that do not require evacuation,” he argued, adding, “In a peace agreement, if you make peace, why should you evacuate? I think that the dynamic or the terminology we’ve gotten used to, that in order to make a peace agreement – we must evacuate, is not necessarily correct.”
The next day, in an interview with Israel Radio, the Labor chairman made it clear he would not retract his remarks, stating that in the event of a peace agreement, creative solutions should be found to allow isolated settlements to stay put. “We must not look at the evacuation of 80,000 Jews casually,” he said.
Regarding his own position on the evacuation of settlements, Ya’alon reminded his audience that he had opposed the Gaza disengagement plan when he was the IDF chief of staff, which was why his contract was not renewed by the Sharon government. He called himself “Ish hityashvut,” the traditional Zionist and Labor term for the Zionist settlers from the 1870s until roughly 1994. “I claim that the border is marked by the line of the plow, the border is marked by a children’s home. Where there is no children’s home there is no army. If you want to own land, you have to plant a settlement there,” he said.
It should be noted that the institution of the “children’s home,” which used to be one of the foundations of the Kibbutz movement, has long since been eliminated because of long-term emotional problems that were identified in children who were raised away from their parents.
Ya’alon’s and Gabai’s foes on the Left did not attack that nostalgic slip, but rather the notion of achieving peace without forcing a few hundred thousand Jews pay for it with their exile. Prominent among those were MK Tzipi Livni (Zionist Camp) who stressed that Gabai’s statement was not hers, and “neither the position of the movement, nor the position of the Zionist Camp.”
MK Itzik Shmuli (Zionist Camp) wrote that “separation into two states is a supreme existential interest that will require painful concessions and evacuation of parts of the homeland.”
MK Ksenia Svetlova (Zionist Camp) said that “the recognition of the large settlement blocs was achieved with great effort during discussions with the US during the last round of negotiations. We must preserve the distinction between the blocs and what’s outside them.”
MK Ilan Gillon (Meretz) wrote that it is a shame that Gabai “forgot that he was chosen to head the alternative camp for the Likud. There is no political solution that does not include a territorial compromise.”