Yuli Tamir served as a member of the Knesset for the Labor Party between 2003 and 2010 and as Minister of Immigrant Absorption and Minister of Education. She received a Ph.D. in Political Philosophy from Oxford University, a BA in Biology and an MA in Political Science from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. She has written many articles on liberalism, education, nationality, feminism, and human rights. She is the author of Liberal Nationalism (1993) and editor of Democratic Education in a Multicultural State (1995) and Moral and Political Education (2001).
I think the only solution is something along the lines of the Geneva Agreement (or the Geneva Initiative) and other agreements that are part of the history of negotiations. I don’t think anything new can be invented.
There should be some sort of land swap for the three major settlement blocs and a connection between Gaza and West Bank.
First of all, I think that the settlements shouldn’t have been there in the first place. It is disputed land and it should have remained free so public and international debate could determine its future. The settlers tried to determine the future without due process. Settlements are a burden on negotiations and our future, and we will all pay a price for them. I also think that, given the present circumstances, it would be hard to dismantle all the settlements; at the end of the day we will have to find a way to keep some of them that are close to the Israeli border in order to make the evacuation less dramatic. But, at the end of the day, there will be no other choice but to evacuate some of the settlements. This is critical for Israel to create a Palestinian state that is more than just islands connected to each other. It is clear that full evacuation is not the best option, but partial evacuation will allow for the creation of a Palestinian state that has some sort of viability. The three major settlement blocks should be kept, which is also one of the most common views in Israel. Settlers should not be given an option to stay in the Palestinian state, especially since those who will stay are the extremists. If they stay, they will just create more problems. They aren’t there to help problems—they are there to start a fight.
The possibility of the West Bank turning into Gaza is a real concern. However, one of the things the Palestinians should be praised for is that their security services collaborate with ours and much of the security that we do have, and we do have good security given the circumstances (I think Israel is quite secure), is due to collaboration between Israeli and Palestinian security forces. They are doing a rather good job. So this is reason to believe that if it is handed over to an organized Palestinian body, it will be more stable and allow for better security arrangements—even more stable than it is today. There could be terrorism, but that is a given. There is terrorism in Paris and terrorism in New York. It would be unnatural if it didn’t happen here. There needs to be a strong Palestinian body that is supporting Israeli efforts to defend its homeland. The key is handing over authority to an organized body. Everyone talks about demilitarization of a Palestinian state to limit ability for air-force development, to limit power over authority of Israel, but this is all part of the arrangement. You should see the balance of what you get and what you pay for. So you will get a better institutional arrangement that will help support an ongoing relatively safe environment.
The future should be Jewish neighborhoods and Palestinian neighborhoods similar to the breakdown of the Clinton Parameters. The Old City should be international or a joint entity that allows most countries to see it as a holy place, rather than as a political place. There can be a political place for Israel in West Jerusalem, and one for Palestinians in East Jerusalem, Ramallah—whatever they decide. In the middle will be the Old City, only for religious places. I think that once there is a final settlement there could be a request (not a demand) for Jews to pray on the Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif. These things can only be achieved through an agreement and not by force. Every time Jews go there it is a provocation. If there is an agreement, it can be achieved in a friendly way. I don’t think Muslims ever resented Jews praying there, rather it was a symbol of the occupation.
Like in the case of the Temple Mount, the right of return is not a matter of principle—it is more a matter of agreement. Palestinians will hold the belief that they have a right of return and we will hold the belief that we have a right to a Jewish state. Both sides will hold beliefs. The big challenge is to find a practical agreement. We know the options. It should be an option that is agreed upon—a certain number coming back and a certain amount compensated. If you also extend the compensation to the Jews who had to come from the Arab world, at the end of the day it could be beneficial to both sides and would gain a lot of support.
If you want to extend right of return to descendants, then none can return soon.
Israel and Germany (not to compare), both agreed that it wasn’t about individuals but about community. Historical debate should be settled so that it will give benefits to each community. Who will receive benefits from that community is a Palestinian issue. Maybe it will open a debate between Palestinians, but for us it is about acknowledging the fact that we have forced the Palestinians out and they have the right to be compensated. They will call it a right of return.
There is a right for a Jewish state. That doesn’t mean that while erecting the state there wasn’t injustice done. Many states, in the moment of their creation, commit injustices. Most certainly, these injustices should be compensated for and acknowledged. The fact is that Americans drove out Indians and many other countries in the world started its independence in war or displacement. You cannot undo history, but you can acknowledge and compensate for the damage and evil done on the way to making a new political reality.
I think BDS is ineffective. It creates more resentment than support. And it doesn’t have any political effect. When the US and Britain say they aren’t going to support it, it is something that irritates the Israeli public but doesn’t have any political effect. I think it undermines chances of dialogue with countries who would normally want to talk. The people who enjoy it the most are the right. At the end of the day it is counter-productive and creates negative pressure on Israel.
I think that Israel is a state with a lot of inequality, but I wouldn’t say it is an apartheid state. Arabs are members of the Knesset, mayors, lecturers in universities—not like in South Africa, or in the US during the 60’s with racially-segregated bathrooms, etc. When they see apartheid, they see South Africa and the US in the 50’s and 60’s. I think it is better here but I am still unhappy with the level of discrimination.
I think the occupation is the source of the illness that we are facing today. Since it is a military arrangement, it creates things that wouldn’t be allowed if it were a civilian arrangement. Thus, I think putting an end to occupation is the best thing Israel can do for itself.