Jewish Journal


Messianic? - Speaking about Kerry, Yaalon Made a Much Harsher Accusation

by Shmuel Rosner

January 16, 2014 | 5:29 am

Israel's Defense Minister, Moshe Yaalon
Photo by Reuters/Nir Elias


It is funny how both left and right use "messianic" as the ultimate insult. But even if Defense Minister Yaalon should not have publically stated that State Secretary Kerry is "obsessive and messianic", it doesn't mean he is not right in making this assessment. David Horovitz aptly summed it up in one sentence: "Ya’alon’s been thoroughly dumb. But he’s not entirely wrong". In fact, a majority of Israelis would say that he is right. And while the Americans have been rushing to get some diplomatic mileage out of Yaalon's mistake - to "put Israel in its place, perhaps to put it on the defensive as Kerry comes back to continue his diplomatic efforts", as Herb Keinon remarks - one would hope that this fact was not lost on them. One would hope that they realized that their initiative hardly impresses the Israeli public and its leadership. In other words, if you want to put a positive spin on Yaalon's carelessness, try this: He was a messenger that had to be sacrificed in order to send a clear message of dissent to the American mediator, a message that no polite disagreement behind closed doors can convey.


The fact that the US decided to play hardball on this matter doesn't bode well for Israel's chances to come out on top in case negotiations fail. Let me explain: it is clear that Kerry intends to put a piece of paper on the table. It is also clear that Israel will try hard not to be the one rejecting the paper. It is also very possible that the paper will lead nowhere, and that Kerry's effort will come up short. What happens then? The thinking in Israel would be: if we accept the American paper, we will not be blamed when the effort doesn't provide results. Yet looking at the Yaalon-Kerry battle one gets the impression that the Americans are already laying the groundwork for blaming Israel – at least partially – if there's a failure. Obviously, Kerry would not blame himself in case of failure. And blaming the Palestinians is boring and fruitless – they are used to being blamed, and they care much less than Israel about having to cope with a campaign of denunciations (because Israel has a lot more to lose). Making the Yaalon remarks such a big issue might be a hint that Kerry already has a plan B in case of failure: blame Israel (partial blame would be enough to legitimize attempts to punish Israel).


The personal insult to Kerry was a mistake, but Yaalon also has some serious accusations related to policy, not just personality: he says that the proposed American plan is dangerous to Israel's security. Yaalon – as we've seen in recent days – is not yet a very good diplomat. But he does know something about defense and security. I believe that most Israelis (me included) would trust his judgment regarding Israel's security needs much more than the judgment of the American experts sent here to make their own assessment. Accusing the US of proposing a plan that is dangerous to Israel is a much harsher accusation than "messianic". 


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