Ya'alon: 'We'll Manage' Either Way'

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JERUSALEM, Israel -- In an apparent response to U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry's warnings about not reaching a deal with the Palestinian Authority by April, Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon said he hopes an agreement can be reached, but the Jewish state will "manage" either way.

Over the weekend, Kerry said the status quo between Israel and the P.A. is "illusionary" and "cannot be maintained."

"I support the negotiations," Ya'alon told participants at the Munich Security Conference. "I support any political engagement, but we should tell the truth to ourselves and not delude ourselves and deceive ourselves regarding President Mahmoud Abbas' intentions," who much like his predecessor, the late PLO chairman Yasser Arafat, seems uninterested in reaching an agreement.

Ya'alon rejected the notion that Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria are an "obstacle to peace," saying Israel will not give up any territory until the P.A. is willing to accept the right of the Jewish nation-state to exist and gives up any future claims, including the so-called right of return of Palestinian refugees and their descendants. Any agreement, he stressed, must address Israeli security needs.

"Settlements are not the obstacle to peace," Ya'alon said. "The settlements include today less than 5 percent of the territory in the Palestinian arena. If we are going for peace, we have Arabs living side by side with us in Galilee and Jaffa and Acre. We don't deny this right."

"Why does the Palestinian leadership insist on getting the territory without Jews" he asked. "If we have to live together, we can benefit from each other."

Last month, the State Department demanded an apology from Ya'alon for referring to U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry's "unfathomable obsession and messianic feeling" regarding Israeli-Palestinian talks, in off-the-record remarks to the Israeli daily Yediot Ahronot (ITALICS). He said Kerry could not teach him anything about the Palestinians.

"I live and breathe the conflict with the Palestinians," Ya'alon, a former Israel Defense Forces chief of general staff, said. "I know what they think, what they want and what they really mean." He also rejected the Obama administration's security plan.

"The American security plan presented to us is not worth the paper it's written on," Ya'alon said. "It contains no peace and no security. Only our continued presence in Judea and Samaria [the West Bank] and the Jordan River will guarantee that Ben Gurion Airport [Israel's main international airport] and [the northern coastal city] Netanya do not become targets for missiles from every direction."

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