Yair Golan on Violence and Political Confusion in Israel

In Israel today, many cities have closed schools and businesses as Palestinian militants fired missiles across the border. This comes as Israel languishes in a state of political confusion: after two inconclusive elections, Blue and White Party leader Benny Gantz is still trying to form a ruling coalition, after Prime Minister Netanyahu’s failed attempts. Yair Golan joins the program to discuss.

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CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR: What is your analysis of what this strike was about and what it might lead to?

GOLAN: Well, I hope that we are not underway to escalation. We need to remember that this conflict is between the Jihadic Islam, a relatively small organization in the Gaza Strip. And Israel, I think, that the interest of Hamas is to reconcile the situation right now. The interest of Israel is, of course, to reconcile the situation. And hopefully, after, you know, a few hours, maybe a few days, we will see some sort of cease-fire.

AMANPOUR: I just want to play what Prime Minister Netanyahu said about this particular incident.


BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER (through translator): The idea eliminated Bahaa Abu al-Ata, the senior commander of the Islamic Jihad in the Gaza Strip. In the past year, this mega terrorist was the main terrorism initiator from the Strip. He initiated, planned and carried out many attacks. He fired hundreds of rockets toward communities in the Gaza envelope whose suffering is not hidden nor absent from us. He was in the midst of planning further attacks from these days. He was a ticking time bomb.


AMANPOUR: You know, so as a former commander of IDF forces, how do you assess the decision to take out this al-Ata fellow?

GOLAN: I consider the decision as a professional decision with no, you know, true political influence, although it’s always there. Abu al-Ata was truly a very dangerous person. He didn’t obey the commands of the Hamas. He was a kind of a very independent figure even in the Jihadic Islam. He conducted many attacks on us, on Israel, in the last year-and-a-half. And, therefore, I think to describe him as a ticking bomb is very accurate.

AMANPOUR: So, in other words, you agree with this strategy. So, I also want to ask you because it’s quite controversial your view on what any Israeli government should do with Hamas, who you call a terrorist organization. You believe, I think, that Israel should, actually, in some way, talk to, negotiate with or whatever you like to call it, in order to bring down the temperature and try to resolve issues. Many people think that’s not even possible. Why do you think as a foreign military commander that that would be possible with Hamas?

GOLAN: Well, we need to try and go in a different direction with Hamas. Hamas is a terror organization. No doubt about it. But right now, Hamas is the one who control and eventually the sovereign entity in the Gaza Strip. And therefore, we need to discuss the future of the Gaza Strip with Hamas. There’s no other way. And to do it in the most productive way rather than militarily, we need to create some sort of new equation and the new equation is that Israel gets more security. Hamas gets better economical situation and with economical development. And by this equation, we create a more stable situation for behalf of the two people. This is better for them, better for us. And we should try to enhance such an opinion as much as possible while the military option is always — there is always on the table.

AMANPOUR: So for me, that’s a pretty extraordinary thing to hear a military man say. And I wonder, even, if your actual partners for peace, the Palestinian Authority, what they would say about that. But, first, I want to ask you this. You are not just a foreign military commander but you are in Knesset, you are part of the party and you are an opponent of Prime Minister Netanyahu. That much is clear. What do you think? How do you think this current political impasse is going to be resolved? First and foremost, is Benny Gantz, another former colleague of yours going to be able to form a ruling coalition?

GOLAN: Well, I would say that I take this opportunity to call Benny Gantz to create a minority government. I think there’s no other option today. Honestly, that it is to convince Avigdor Liberman from other party, the right wing party, to support this minority government. And I think that another election could be disastrous for Israel. There is no reason for another election. It’s just a waste of money. Money that could serve much better purposes. And therefore, I truly support any possible attempts to create a reasonable government with a strong central block.

About This Episode EXPAND

On Wednesday, the all-consuming political drama of impeachment goes public for the first time on Capitol Hill. John McLaughlin and Joe Crowley each give Christiane Amanpour their thoughts on the situation. Yair Golan joins the program to discuss violence and political confusion in Israel. Chess grandmaster Garry Kasparov sits down with Miles O’Brien to talk technology, Trump and Putin.