with Knesset member Yuval Steinitz * just a few years ago, Yuval
Steinitz was considered a leading member of the left. He has since
shifted 180 degrees * the political situation worries him
tremendously, though he retains hope for the future.
Yuval Steinitz was born in Israel in 1958. He teaches
philosophy at the University of Chaifa. He was elected to the last
Knesset as representative of the Likud party. Yuval Steinitz
belonged to the Left for years, but recently “crossed lines”
and has come around to the thinking of the Right.
Mr. Steinitz, Barak has returned from Camp David without an
agreement. He spoke about three guiding principles: Israeli
security, preserving Jewish holy sites, and national unity. Are
knows that the reason Barak returned from Camp David empty handed
was not because he stood on principle. We all know that Barak
crossed all the red lines, as well as the green, blue, and purple
lines. He undermined the most basic needs of this country. The
reason the summit was a failure was thanks to Arafat who wasn’t
willing to compromise on his demands, and didn’t budge an inch
from his position. That is the only reason there was no agreement.
the way, the same thing happened with Syria regarding the northern
border. Barak was ready to concede not only the entire Golan
Heights, but even areas within the borders of the State of Israel
as it was divided in ‘74. The reason Barak did not achieve an
agreement with Syria was because after they saw that Barak was
ready to give it all up, even past the border, they brought up
additional demands like dividing the Kineret.
Nevertheless, Barak has been in power for over a year and there
has been no agreement with either Syria or the Palestinians.
what’s going on here. Barak has only been in power for a year,
and today we are no longer discussing returning the Golan but
dividing the Kineret; we are no longer debating about whether
there will be a Palestinian state in 96% of the territories of
Yehuda and Shomron, but we are discussing the division of
Yerushalayim. All this, yet we haven’t received a thing from
them and we haven’t even signed a peace treaty with either the
Syrians or the Palestinians.
Those close to Barak say that the Prime Minister is being open,
thus proving to the world that the Arabs are the ones who aren’t
interested in peace.
would seem you are right, for Barak has proven that the Syrians
and Palestinians are the ones who are being difficult and not
Israel. Yes, we have been patted on the back by the Americans and
the Europeans. But that will only last a few weeks or a few months
at most. On the other hand, the price we paid for this dubious
accomplishment was steep, for our opening position has dropped
got up to the Kineret and Yerushalayim, and at the next round of
negotiations it will only get worse. They will start from the
position Israel agreed to at the last round of negotiations. What
kind of accomplishment is that? How can Barak show his face after
the abysmal concessions he made at Camp David?
Mr. Steinitz, you used to be on the other side of the political
spectrum. Did you ever think that Israel would ever make such
concessions, and that all the red lines would be crossed?
never. The absurdity is just incredible. Even were Barak to sign
an agreement about the establishment of a Palestinian state in
most of the territories of Yehuda, Shomron, and Azza based on the
principle of two countries for two nations, the Palestinians
refuse to accept this principle. They say that there is one
country called Palestine and the other country is not a Jewish
country. Furthermore, they claim that a Palestinian state has to
be within the green line.
What is this claim based on?
demand the right of return, not to the Palestinian state but to
the Jewish state. That translates into another two to three
million refugees within the state of Israel. Even according to
Barak, you have to separate the two nations into two countries;
there has to be the right of return for Jews to the Jewish state
and the right of return of Arabs to the Palestinian state. But the
Arabs are demanding the reunification of Arab families within the
Jewish state, thus undermining the Jewish state. This is sheer
madness, proving what the intentions behind the “peace talks”
The former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, Judge Landau, said
that this agreement is nothing more than another step in the Arab
strategy of takeover by increments. Do you see it this way too?
The very demand that along with the establishment of a Palestinian
state they want the right of return within the green line,
testifies to the fact that they do not accept the principle of two
countries for two nations. Rather, they say this is mine, but I
also have national rights to the Galil, the Negev, Yaffo, Lud, and
Can you envision a situation in which Israel will make concessions
even within the green line?
most dangerous concession is the right to return. Even if they
agree to the right of return in only a symbolic fashion, this
agreement can deteriorate to demands to bring back hundreds of
thousands and even millions of Arabs. We already heard Knesset
member Yossi Katz speak about the right of return to a hundred
thousands Arabs. The head of the group for international relations
at the University of Chaifa, Eilan Papo, speaks about the million
Arabs who have to be brought within the green line. Barak is
prepared to discuss the right of return, and he claims these are
only minor compromises, but it affects the demographics of the
Jewish people living in this country.
Why doesn’t the Israeli public realize what is going on?
will disagree with you on that. The people are definitely aware of
the severity of the situation. Some of them figure that with just
one more major concession the Arabs will finally make peace with
our existence. On the other hand, there are those who realize that
as big as the concession might be, the smaller their acceptance of
our existence; and the more we weaken ourselves, the greater the
pressure upon us.
Where do you think it will end?
can’t say. I think that at a certain point the Jewish nation
will get up on its feet and do all it can to stop this downhill
process. When this will happen, I don’t know. But I hope that
there will still be something left to save considering the
severity of the situation.
What should be done?
and protesting within the democratic process. Nothing illegal can
be done, but everything legal must be done to topple the
government, the sooner the better. We must demonstrate and protest
and I have no doubt that the Jewish people will nip the process in
The Camp David summit ended in failure. Lately you have spoken out
about the first Camp David summit in which we obtained peace with
Egypt. You claim that we don’t even have a cool peace with
Egypt. What do you know about what is going on in Egypt behind the
situation today is such that Egypt is arming itself and is
preparing for a confrontation with Israel. Despite “peace”
with Israel, we still don’t appear on official maps of Egypt.
The Egyptians incite their people against us with attacks in the
Do you have proof?
half a year ago, the defense minister of Egypt stated explicitly
that Egypt was anticipating a confrontation with Israel. Egypt has
been arming itself seriously in recent years. Their defense budget
has grown and they are busy buying weapons. The Egyptian army does
simulations of attacks on Israel with military exercises
officially directed against Israel. They are constantly educated
to see Israel as their enemy.
Perhaps Egypt is preparing for war against other bordering
borders on Libya and Sudan, which have hardly any armies to speak
of. Libya has outdated tanks which barely move and Sudan has
hardly any army at all. Mubarak himself once said that one armored
brigade of his could conquer all of Libya, and he’s right.
What’s happening as far as Egyptian incitement against Israel?
few months ago, Dr. Itzik ben Yisroel said that Egyptian
incitement against Israel is far more serious than it was before
the signing of the Camp David accords. Egyptians believe that
Israel doesn’t have the right to exist and must be wiped off the
map. This is stated in the government-run media, too.
Is there no “Peace Now” movement in Egypt?
When did the situation with Egypt begin to go downhill?
identify the deterioration with the period after the Oslo accords.
In ‘94, Rabin said that after the attacks, Israel had no choice
but to go back to Azza. Mubarak reacted with a warning that Egypt
would go out to defend the Palestinians and he let it be known he
meant military support. That was the first time that Egypt hinted
at military confrontation. Since the Oslo accords, you can see
that Egypt has begun talking about war more and more.
Egyptian threat came after Israel refused to sign the treaty about
the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons. Egypt informed Israel
that if Israel did not announce its dismantling of nuclear
weapons, it would be a reason for war, or as the Egyptian foreign
minister put it, “There will be a big explosion in the Middle
East which Egypt will be part of.”
despite the fact that Israel conceded all to Egypt, down to the
last grain of sand?
In ‘97, when there was tension between Israel and Syria, Mubarak
made an ambiguous statement: “I can appease Israel. There
won’t be war between Israel and Syria because there won’t be
war in the Middle East without Egypt.” Those who chose to
understand, realized that Mubarak was saying that if there would
be conflict with anyone in the Middle East, Egypt would be
The heads of the intelligence services are unaware of this? Only
Yuval Steinitz is cognizant of the strained relationship with
Israeli army knows all about it. Ehud Barak, in his role as
security minister, is worried about the possibility of military
conflict with Egypt. I can’t tell you how I know that, but there
is definitely great concern in the security department over the
situation with Egypt.
Mubarak hasn’t yet visited Israel.
and that’s additional proof about the level of our
relationship with Egypt. Sadat visited Israel four times within
four years of his presidency after the peace treaty made
with Israel. Mubarak has reigned for 18 years and he has never
visited Israel on any official visit except for Rabin’s funeral,
and that was only after Clinton threatened to cut off ties with
Egypt. Even then, the Egyptians made it clear that it wasn’t a
really surprised that the Israeli media doesn’t deal with this
subject and prefers to ignore the situation with Egypt. Instead of
dealing with the situation, the media prefers to look away and to
make it look like everything is fine. The media should make a cheshbon
nefesh (an accounting) about this.
After these dangerous political proceedings, are you afraid about
the continued existence of the state of Israel?
definitely fearful. Israel keeps making mistakes and, of course,
I’m afraid for its continued existence. The situation today is
extremely serious. I think that the next five to ten years are
critical ones for Israel. Until this very day there has been no
declaration from any Arab leader saying that Israel has the right
to exist even within the ‘67 borders. On the contrary, you see
that they are educating their children to destroy the Jewish
people, not just the State of Israel. You don’t see anything
else like it anywhere in the world, where there is talk about
destroying a country, except for us. Nevertheless, I trust in the
eternity of the Jewish people, as it says, “Behold, the Guardian
of Israel neither slumbers nor sleeps.”