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Martin Indyk vs. Moshe Ya’alon

Israeli defense minister Moshe Ya’alon violated the first rule of diplomacy–always compliment the emperor on his wardrobe, and limit your comments to concerns about his well-intentioned but possibly counterproductive wardrobe policy. But as Seth Mandel noted, Ya’alon is not alone in his concerns, and the private expression of them has had no effect on the Obama administration–other than to lead it to attack Ya’alon. Israeli columnist Ron Ben-Yishai writes that Ya’alon’s comments were a long time coming:  

Ya’alon is mainly against the security aspect [of the framework agreement], and [Kerry and his team] are presenting him as the chief party pooper in briefings they are giving politicians and former senior Israeli military officials. Kerry’s personal emissary, former Ambassador Martin Indyk, has not been shy about his opinion on Ya’alon either, and this has all reached the 14th floor at the Defense Ministry building. Ya’alon didn’t like the defamation and the brawl broke out after bubbling for quite a long time in utmost discretion.

In 2009, Martin Indyk wrote that Israel’s insistence that the Palestinians “allow Israel the means to defend itself” sounded “like a new precondition”–a “well-practiced Netanyahu negotiating tactic.” In 2010, Indyk took to the New York Times op-ed page to castigate Israel for approving Jewish housing in a longstanding Jewish area of the capital of the Jewish state. He considered it a “strategic setback” that required reversal as “the litmus test of Netanyahu’s commitment to the common cause of curbing Iran’s nuclear enthusiasm.” In the same op-ed, he concluded that “nothing could better help Obama to isolate Iran than for Netanyahu to offer to cede the Golan” to Syria. Later, Indyk urged Israel to jump out a window for peace.

Indyk’s self-defenestration suggestion was contained in another 2010 New York Times op-ed, entitled “For Once, Hope in the Middle East,” where Indyk also wrote that:

Security arrangements were all but settled in 2000 at Camp David before the talks collapsed. The increased threat of rocket attacks since then, among other developments, require the two sides to agree on stricter border controls and a robust third-party force in the Jordan Valley.

In other words, he belatedly conceded that the “all but settled” security arrangements of 2000 would not have been effective against the “increased threat of rocket attacks” and the “other developments” that occurred thereafter, and he agreed that something more was necessary. So he revised his position to endorse a “robust” international force in the Jordan Valley.

The word “robust” is the adjective diplomats use to make unimpressive nouns sound convincing. It is the word Condoleezza Rice repeatedly used to describe the international force in Lebanon, which had no effect on Hezbollah’s rearming other than to serve as a human shield for it. In 1967, the “robust” international force in the Sinai was withdrawn days before the Six-Day War, which helped lead to it. The reasons why Israel cannot rely on international forces for its security are shown succinctly (and persuasively) in this short video.

Ron Ben-Yishai’s article also noted that “Ya’alon, and many in Israel” are skeptical about what is behind Kerry’s current intensive campaign, because:

Ya’alon and quite a few Israeli government ministers believe that the conditions for such an agreement have actually not matured at the moment. The turmoil in the Arab world, the growing tsunami of al-Qaeda activists on our border and the refugees filling Jordan, Turkey and Lebanon, are all causing Abbas to be concerned and avoid reaching an agreement with Israel, which might even cost him his life.

Indyk’s effort is part of a co-ordinated campaign to sideline Israel’s defense minister, by a peace processor whose past policy prescriptions for Israel’s security have been consistently wrong, but who–one must hasten to add–is a very snappy dresser.


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