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“Thanks To Arafat”
By Shai Gefen

Interview 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 you satisfied?

Everybody 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.

By 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.

Look 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.

It 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 precipitously.

They 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?

No, 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?

They 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” really are.

* 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?

Certainly. 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 Ramle.

* Can you envision a situation in which Israel will make concessions even within the green line?

The 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?

I 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?

I 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?

Demonstrating 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 bud.

* 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 scenes?

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 media.

* Do you have proof?

Just 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 countries?

Egypt 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?

A 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?

Very little.

* When did the situation with Egypt begin to go downhill?

I 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.

Another 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.”

*That’s despite the fact that Israel conceded all to Egypt, down to the last grain of sand?

Correct. 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 involved.

* The heads of the intelligence services are unaware of this? Only Yuval Steinitz is cognizant of the strained relationship with Egypt?

The 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.

Right, 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 governmental visit.

I’m 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?

I’m 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.”


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.





They 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.


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