The answer is, to paraphrase the old Obama slogan: “yes, it can.” For starters, instead of appointing Yair Lapid to be foreign minister, which would project a message of calm and reassurance to the international community, Bibi appears to intend to save that portfolio for his old partner in crime (and current indictee) Avigdor Lieberman. That will leave Lapid with the finance ministry, in which he will have little sway or input since Bibi is a former finance minister and takes a strong interest in economic policy.
But the appointment that really caught my eye is the defense portfolio. That’s rumored to be headed to Moshe “Bogie” Yaalon. He has the distinction of the being IDF chief of staff fired by Sharon when he refused to allow military forces to evacuate Gaza settlers. Yaalon is not just right-wing. He’s among the most ardent of the settler supporters. In 2009, I wrote of a political evening at which he spoke after being introduced by Moshe Feiglin. The RSVPs were collected by Meir Kahane’s daughter in law. When a friend called to RSVP, the phone was answered by Meir Kahane’s grandson, also called Meir. This is the same charming fellow arrested by the police under suspicion of perpetrating price tag attacks, including the burning of West Bank mosques. Yaalon has clearly thrown his political lot with the worst of the settler thugs.
But don’t just believe this anecdote. Read this account of a press briefing on Iran Yaalon gave earlier this year:
Bogie Yaalon isn’t delusional in the way that the Hilltop Youth are. He’s not even delusional in the way that Avigdor Lieberman or Newt Gingrich is. He’s delusional in a stone-cold sober, cold-blooded way that could lead to tens of thousands of dead, blood running down the streets of Israel, Iran and numerous other Arab cities, and missiles bristling from bunkers and launch sites throughout the region.
…If Yaalon’s strategic vision carries the day in Israeli policymaking circles, we could see a virtual repeat of the Crusades, in which competing religious forces battle for control of the region for decades, if not longer. The major difference being that Israel and the frontline states have massive amounts of firepower at their disposal.
The former Israeli general has a strategic vision that places Israel on a permanent war footing. It turns Israel not just into Sparta, but into Sparta in constant war with multiple neighboring states. Frankly, this is not a state of affairs that Israel can sustain over an extended period. There is no possible way Israel could fight an all-out war for eight years, suffering 1-million dead as Iran did against Iraq. That makes Yaalon’s vision deeply damaging, even pathological in terms of what Israel could actually sustain.
…The money quote of the entire briefing was this: “Iran should be given the choice to have a bomb or survive.” The west must present this in the most aggressive and intrusive way possible as a dilemma the Iranians must answer, a stark choice, basically of life without a bomb or death. It wasn’t clear whether Yaalon was speaking of the death of the Iranian regime or the death of the country itself. Even if he only meant the former, it was truly a spine-shivering articulation of the goal of Israeli policy.
…[He said Iran’s goal is to] “achieve hegemony in the region, to impose revolution, their vision of Islam, political Islam, in the region and beyond. Further, they seek to bring the End of Days by imposing Islam wherever they can.”
Yaalon opposed an attack by Israel on Iran during the last government. But that was at least in part out of resentment of Bibi’s alliance with Ehud Barak in favor of war. The prime minister had originally promised Bogie the defense ministry in the last government. But when Barak brought Labor into the coalition, the price was defense for Barak. Ever since Yaalon has had it in for Barak. So in the next government, with Barak out of the way, Yaalon may sing a different tune, especially if he knows his boss, the PM wants war.
The operative phrase for me in looking at the future is that old movie line: “be afraid, be very afraid.”