Magazine article Tikkun

An Interview with Adi Ophir

Magazine article Tikkun

An Interview with Adi Ophir

Article excerpt


We asked Adi Ophir, a leading Israeli intellectual and peace activist, to write an analysis for us of the situation in Israel. He replied, "I prefer to invest the little energy I have in writing in Hebrew and trying (usually unsuccessfully) to get published in a mainsteam Israeli journal." So, we did this brief interview instead.

TIKKUN: I wonder if you'd help us in the United States better understand what has been happening in Israel. Over here, it's hard to get answers to certain questions. For example, do most Palestinians support the rioting or are they caught between a bunch of extremists in their world and extremists in Israel?

OPHIR: Most Palestinians support the rioting, except we must remember that it is not rioting to them but their war of independence. And who are we to tell them that they don't have the right to struggle for their independence?

TIKKUN: Let's get into the causes of the rioting. Did the core leadership of the Palestinian Authority feel that what Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak offered at Camp David was impossible to accept? If so, why? Was it the settlements? control of the Temple Mount?

OPHIR: First of all, one should bear in mind that nobody knows for sure what Barak offered at Camp David, and different people, even those close to the negotiation, may have (or may wish to present) conflicting impressions about it. But we know for sure what Barak did not offer. He did not offer Palestinian sovereignty over East Jerusalem and especially over Haram al-Sharif (Al-Aqsa and the Dome of the Rock); he did not offer to evacuate settlements, or not enough settlements, and he did not offer compensation for those territories that would have remained under Israeli control; and he failed to offer serious ideas that could address the question of the 1948 refugees and the Palestinian claim to the right of return. Some of the Palestinian Authority (PA) leadership might have accepted the deal despite its many flaws, in part because they have very high personal and economic stakes in stability and in part, perhaps, because they wished to prevent the bloodshed that a failure in the negotiation was correctly expected to bring about. But even an autocratic regime like the PA needs to take into account the will of the people. And the will of the Palestinian people is not simply the result of the current unacceptable Israeli offer, but of seven years of humiliating negotiations that have led nowhere. It's the result of seeing relatively little improvement in their everyday lives, ongoing Israeli aggression, ever more new houses in the settlements, the confiscation of their land, house demolitions, et cetera, et cetera.

When the overall package is so frustrating, every element in the dispute can become the main issue. The question is only which issue will ignite more people and send them to the streets. The Temple Mount is a very good issue for sending people to the streets. With a little help from Ariel Sharon, it became easily available.

TIKKUN: Do you think Arafat should have accepted the State being offered and used that as a wedge to continue to ask for more?

OPHIR: I cannot place myself in Arafat's position. I know that my government should have offered more and should have known better about the Palestinians' expected reaction. …

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