Charlie Rose Talks to Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon

The Israeli defense minister discusses his resistance to a two-state solution and the long fight ahead against Islamic State
Photograph by Jim Hollander/AFP/Getty Images

When you look at groups like Islamic State, do you believe there’s something in Islam that motivates them?
First of all, not all Muslims are jihadists. But all jihadists are Muslims. This is a clash between civilizations. You can see poverty exploited by their leaders. And they know how to approach these frustrated people in their societies. And how to motivate them to become either [Islamic State] followers, al-Qaeda followers, or with al-Nusra or Muslim Brotherhood. It is a vicious circle. I don’t believe that a society that certifies death might prevail. They deteriorate the situation regarding the economy, regarding everything, because they certify death rather than life.

There appears to be a growing level of discontent, especially in Europe, with Israeli policy regarding the Palestinians.
We were ready for compromise. But with this experience with the Palestinians, in which any piece of territory which was delivered to their responsibility had become either a safe haven for terrorists or rocket launching pads, as we witness now in the Gaza Strip, do you believe that the only way is to withdraw? What did we get from our withdrawal from Gaza and from Jenin and Nablus, the areas that we delivered to their responsibility in the West Bank? They choose the way of the rockets. That’s why we have to take the security measures.

Do you accept the idea that there could be a peace treaty that gives Palestinians their own state?
Theoretically you are right. But I have experience with the Palestinians for more than 20 years. And unfortunately, international discourse regarding the conflict is dominated by misconceptions. One of them is, what is the cause of instability in the Middle East? The uprising in Tunisia, counterrevolution in Egypt, civil war in Syria—it’s not because of us. The next is regarding the core of the conflict. I personally supported [the] Oslo [Accords]. But when I found that we don’t have a partner on the Palestinian side who is ready to recognize our right to exist as a nation-state of Jewish people, I realized that we should find another way, not just talking about the 1967 lines and a Palestinian state.

What would change your mind so that you would be supportive of a Palestinian state?
Educational reform. Looking to their textbooks, seeing that there is no education for hatred, that there is education for peace. This is the way we educate our kids in Israel. Education is the first signal for me to start to trust the option of having peace with them.

What do you see as Iran’s role in the Middle East right now?
They have their own interests in Iraq as well as in Syria, protecting the Shia regime in Iraq and protecting Bashar al-Assad in Syria. They’re playing a nasty role. Iran is still the main generator and instigator for instability in the region. They support certain elements in Afghanistan not to allow stability [there].

How much of a threat does Islamic State pose to Baghdad?
They intend to take over Baghdad, as they intend to take over whatever is available, like Damascus. They are deployed already close to Baghdad. But if the coalition is going to use air superiority in an effective way, they can be stopped. Of course, there is a need for the Iraqi armed forces to do their job on the ground as well. With the air support of the coalition, I believe that they can.

President Obama has said the Syria conflict could last 30 years. Do you agree?
I’m not sure if it will take 30 years. We should be patient, generally speaking. We want instant food; we want instant peace; we want instant democratization. It’s a long process to deal with these jihadists. It’s a method of heart and mind. We should be ready for a long operation.

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