Moshe Ya'alon

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Moshe Yaalon

Moshe Ya'alon (b. June 24, 1950) is a former General in the Israeli military. He was appointed Chief of Staff on July 9, 2002, and served in that position until June 1, 2005, during which time he led the army’s suppression of the al-Aqsa Intifada launched in September 2000. As of May 2012, he is a Likud member of the Knesset, Vice Prime Minister and Minister of Strategic Affairs.[1]

IDF Career

Ya'alon joined the Israeli Army in 1968 and served in the Parachute Regiment of the Nahal Brigade. In 1973, during the Yom Kippur War, he participated as a reservist as a paratrooper in the offensive on the Suez Canal. Following this, he returned to active duty and completed his officer training. His career continued in the Parachute Regiment until Operation Litani, the 1978 invasion of south Lebanon, during which he commanded a reconnaissance unit. He served in an elite unit between 1979 and 1982, and fought during Operation Peace for Galilee, the 1982 invasion of Lebanon. He then took-up a command post in the Parachute Brigade, and was injured in Lebanon just before the end of his engagement.[2]

In 1986, Ya'alon visited the UK in order to take a course at the Command and Staff College at Camberley. Upon his return to Israel, he became commander of the elite unit in which he had previously served. In 1989, he obtained a diploma in political science from the University of Haifa, and in February 1990 was appointed Commander of the Parachute Brigade. In 1992, he became commander of the West bank and was promoted to the rank of Brigadier General.[2]

Head of Military Intelligence

Ya'alon was appointed head of military intelligence in June 1995.[2]

According to Tanya Reinhart, Ya'alon opposed a number of senior intelligence officials who supported the Oslo peace process during his tenure as head of the Aman military intelligence organisation:

But gradually, such voices were silenced. A dominant figure emerging during these years is Major-General Moshe Ya’alon, who is also known for his connections with the settlers. As head of the military intelligence – Am’an – between 1995 and 1998, Ya’alon confronted the chief of staff, Amnon Shahak, and has consolidated the anti-Oslo line which now dominates the military intelligence view.[3]

Qana massacre

A 2007 lawsuit alleged that Ya'alon took part in the decision to shell the UN Compound in Qana, resulting in the deaths of more than 100 civilians, during Operation Grapes of Wrath in south Lebanon in 1996.[4]

Chief of Staff

On 9 July 2002, Ya'alon was appointed Chief of Staff of the IDF.[4]

Shehade killing

During Ya'alon's tenure the use of targeted killings by Israel increased. Ya'alon is accused of ordering, on 22 July 2002, the Israeli F-16 bombing of the building of Saleh Shehade, the leader of the armed wing of Hamas in Gaza, in a very densely populated zone. Shehade was killed along with 14 others, including nine children. Additionally, nearly 150 people were injured.[4]

Palestinian 'Cancer' remarks

Ya'alon's public pronouncements have been controversial. On August 27, 2002, he told Ha'aretz, "The Palestinian threat harbours cancer-like attributes that have to be severed. There are all kinds of solutions to cancer. Some say it's necessary to amputate organs but at the moment I am applying chemotherapy." *[5][6]

Removal by Mofaz

In February 2005, Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz made the controversial decision not to prolong Ya'alon's service as Chief of Staff for another year. This marked the climax of tensions between Mofaz and Ya'alon, which had arisen partly through Ya'alon's objection to Israel's unilateral disengagement from the Gaza Strip. Although the Israeli right was critical of Ya'alon's removal, it welcomed the choice of Dan Halutz as his replacement. Halutz's appointment was criticised some Knesset members from the left because of his role in the Shehade killing as head of the air force.[7]

Ya'alon 37 year service in the Israeli military ended on June 1, 2005.

War Crimes charges

In late 2006, Ya'alon was in New Zealand on a private fund-raising trip organised by the Jewish National Fund. An Auckland District Court Judge issued a warrant for his arrest for alleged war crimes arising from his role in the 2002 assassination of Hamas leader Salah Shahadeh in Gaza City, in which at least 14 Palestinian civilians were killed, saying that New Zealand had an obligation to uphold the Geneva Convention. The Attorney-General of New Zealand, Michael Cullen, overruled the warrant after advice from the Crown Law office that there was insufficient evidence.[8][9]

In 2006, Ya'alon faced a class action lawsuit brought against him in the United states by the Center for Constitutional Rights on behalf of the survivors of the Qana Massacre in 1996. The case was dismissed on the grounds that Ya'alon was acting in an official capacity and so enjoyed immunity under the Foreign Sovereign Immunity Act.[4]

Washington Institute for Near East Policy

From 2005 to 2006, Ya'alon was a distinguished military fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.[10]

In December 2005, he gave a talk on 'Munich and the morality of Israel's counterterrorist measures' at the Institute along with Avi Dichter and Dennis Ross. He stated:

Effective counterterrorism should be based on two guiding principles. The first of these is that the best defense is a good offense. Israeli counterstrikes on Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) bases in Syria and Lebanon following the Munich Olympics attacks, which disrupted PLO capabilities, were effective uses of force and deterred future terrorist incidents. Israel has further exemplified this principle since the April 2002 Operation Defensive Shield, when the IDF moved from the defensive to the offensive, including the use of targeted killings as an offensive tool. It should be emphasized that the targeted killings in the aftermath of Munich and those since April 2002 serve different purposes: while both deterred future attacks, the former were additionally intended to punish, while the latter were intended to preempt, terrorist attacks.[11]

In August 2006, Ya'alon spoke at an event organised by Allen Roth of One Jerusalem, where he was questioned by bloggers including Pamela Geller.[12]

Shalem Center

Ya'alon was a distinguished fellow at the Shalem Center's Adelson Institute for Strategic Studies until November 2008.[13]

Shortly after stepping down from the Shalem Center in November 2008 to run for the Knesset, Ya'alon gave an interview on the need to confront Iran:

"We have to confront the Iranian revolution immediately," he told me. "There is no way to stabilise the Middle East today without defeating the Iranian regime. The Iranian nuclear program must be stopped."
Defeating the theocratic regime in Tehran could be economic or political or, as a last resort, military, he said. "All tools, all options, should be considered."[14]


He was elected a member of the Knesset for the Likud party in February 2009 and was named Vice Prime Minister and Minister of Strategic Affairs in the Israeli government formed the following month.[10][15]

Peace Now 'virus' remarks

In August 2009, Ya'alon referred to the Israeli pressure group Peace Now as a 'virus', in a Likud party forum. Reuters reported:

Replying to a question as to how Yaalon would "rescue" Israel, an allusion to U.S. President Barack Obama's demands to halt settlement construction in occupied land, Yaalon said:
"We are dealing again with a situation where the virus, which is Peace Now, and if you will, the elites, their damage is very great" and that Jews should be permitted to live "forever in all parts of Israel," which would include the West Bank.[16]


External links



  1. Moshe Ya'alon,, accessed 26 May 2012.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Moshe Ya'alon, Trial, accessed 27 July 2012.
  3. Tanya Reinhart, Israel: The Military in Charge?, OpenDemocracy, 24 May 2002.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 Belhas v. Ya’alon, Center for Constitutional Rights, accessed 27 July 2012.
  5. Ari Shavit, "The enemy within" (part 1), Ha'aretz, August 27, 2002
  6. Ari Shavit, "The enemy within" (continued), Ha'aretz, August 27, 2002
  7. Amos Harel and Haaretz service, Mofaz picks Halutz as next IDF chief of staff, Haaretz, 22 December 2005.
  8. Government overrules war-crimes arrest order, New Zealand Herald, December 3, 2006.
  9. Ex-Israeli army chief praises NZ for wiping arrest warrant, New Zealand Herald, December 3, 2006.
  10. 10.0 10.1 Moshe Yaalon, Shalem Center, accessed 27 July 2012.
  11. Moshe Yaalon and Avi Dichter, Munich and the morality of Israel's counterterrorist measures,, 14 January 2006.
  12. Pamela Geller, My Conversation with General Moshe Yaalon "The West is Sleeping", Atlas Shrugs, 26 August 2006.
  13. Paul Sheehan, Israeli hawks ready to fly on Iran, Sydney Morning Herald, 24 November 2008.
  14. Paul Sheehan, Israeli hawks ready to fly on Iran, Sydney Morning Herald, 24 November 2008.
  15. Moshe Ya'alon,, accessed 2 August 2012.
  16. Israeli minister calls anti-settler group a "virus", Reuters, 19 August 2009.