Defense Minister Ya'alon: Middle East borders bound to change
But Moshe Ya'alon does not say whether his prediction applies to Israel.
The borders of the Middle East are bound to change, Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon declared during an interview with National Public Radio during his five-day tour of the United States.
Moreover, the borders have already changed, according to Ya'alon. "Can you unify Syria? [President] Bashar Assad is controlling only 25 percent of the Syrian territory," Ya'alon told Steve Inskeep of NPR's Morning Edition while in Washington. "We have to deal with it."
Defense Minister Ya'alon met with UN General Secretary Ban Ki-moon in New York on Monday to discuss this Israel's summer offensive in Gaza and with U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel on Tuesday in Washington to discuss relations between the two allies.
He also ripped into Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, calling him a "known follower" of the Muslim Brotherhood, during an interview with Charlie Rose on Tuesday.
In the NPR interview, published Thursday, Ya'alon distinguished between nations with a distinct history and countries whose borders were drawn up artificially by Western powers in the previous century.
"Egypt will stay Egypt," he said. "Libya was a new creation, a Western creation as a result of World War I. Syria, Iraq, the same – artificial nation-states – and what we see now is a collapse of this Western idea."
However, he did not discuss whether borders of Israel, which were also determined by Western powers after World War I, would change.
Regarding Israel's recent offensive in Gaza, Ya'alon insisted that Israel went exactly as far as it wanted to go, despite criticisms that it either went too far or not deep enough.
"We knew exactly what we wanted to achieve, and we understood that if we go too far, a part forms a dilemma of cost and benefit,' he said.
Ya'alon clarified that had Israel knocked out Hamas, no one would take charge, "so probably we were stuck." Therefore, explained Ya'alon, Israel preferred "to reach cease-fire according to our terms."
NPR"s Inskeep tried to link the Israeli settler and Palestinian refugee issues, speculating that if individual Israelis had the right to live anywhere on the West Bank, perhaps Palestinians, including refugees should have the right to move back to Israel.
However, Ya'alon was insistent that Israel could not allow refugees to come back because doing so would keep the conflict going on "forever," emphasizing the word "forever" twice.
"But when we talk about the right to live, we do not deny the right of Arabs to live everywhere in the land of Israel," he countered.
After making this sweeping statement, Ya'alon backtracked somewhat, saying there was "no way" Palestinians in the West Bank could live in Israel proper if they wanted to.
"Otherwise, we are not going to solve the conflict, we are going to keep it to the end of the days," he said.
The defense minister also argued that the insistence to remove settlers from the West Bank was tantamount to ethnic cleansing.
"We don't call to do it with Arabs, we don't want to uproot or transfer Arabs," he said. "Why is it so acceptable regarding the Jews?"