Israeli Defence Minister Moshe Ya'alon has criticised the ongoing Palestinian-Israeli negotiations and refuses to consider the evacuation of settlements in the occupied West Bank to be negotiable. "The negotiations will not discuss the evacuation of settlements," he insisted. "Israel must strengthen its defences and not preoccupy itself with negotiations." Ya'alon made his statement at a meeting in the illegal Burkan settlement in the occupied West Bank on Tuesday.
According to Wala news website, the minister questioned the assumption that Israel must "relinquish" territory in exchange for peace. "In the Middle East, the final word is for interests and not for agreements. The interest is power and Judea and Samaria; Israel's internal front which must be strengthened and developed. The demographic situation favours Israel, despite contrary claims."
In a joint tour with Israel's Chief of General Staff Benny Gantz, Ya'alon referred to Israel's policy of procrastinating in negotiations, saying, "Next week we will celebrate 20 years of the Oslo Accords. I have a feeling that the negotiations will continue for years to come".
The meeting brought Ya'alon together with leaders of the settlements in an initiative by Gershon Msika, Mayor of Shomron regional council and his deputy, Yossi Dagan. The meeting hosted the majority of settlement leaders following the cancellation of a programme with Nitzan Alon; the Head of Central Command is known for his unfavourable relationship with the settlers.