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Israeli defense chief Moshe Yaalon: Land for peace is ‘a mistake’

HERZLIYA, Israel (JTA) — Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon inveighed against territorial compromise and blamed the Palestinian Authority for the recent failed peace talks.

Speaking Tuesday at the Herzliya Conference on a broad spectrum of security challenges, Yaalon said the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is not about territorial disputes but rather centers on the Palestinian refusal to accept a Jewish state.

He blamed Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas for refusing to accept Israel as a Jewish state and for insisting on the return of Palestinian refugees to Israel.

“I think we made a mistake with land for peace,” Yaalon said at the policy conference at the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya, an Israeli university. “The conflict is not about the establishment of a Palestinian state. It’s about the existence of a Jewish national home.”

Referencing a series of speeches by Israeli government ministers on Sunday calling for a range of responses to the Israeli-Palestinian impasse, Yaalon said Israel should maintain the status quo and focus on other regional threats.

He said Israel faces threats from global jihad organizations, as well as Iranian-backed terrorist groups such as Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza. Yaalon said Israel has kept relative calm on its borders due to a defense policy focused on deterrence.

“When someone threatens us, they immediately feel the price,” the defense chief said.

Yaalon also said that Israel has found a shared interest with Sunni states in countering radical Shiite organizations financed by Iran.

“When I look at the Middle East, there’s no conflict the Iranians aren’t involved in,” he said. “The Iranian threat is not only the push for nuclear weapons. It’s a push against regimes in which the West has an interest.”

Yaalon called for the world powers negotiating with Iran to increase pressure on Iran, and said Iran is using the negotiations as a way to improve its economy while moving toward attaining nuclear weapons.

“In Iran, economic pressure has fallen, internal instability has fallen,” he said. “This will bring us to a situation where they’ll be able to restrain themselves while being able to rehabilitate their economy and be a [nuclear] threshold state so they’ll be able to move forward and become a nuclear state.”

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