Yossi Beilin

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Yossi Beilin

Architect of the Oslo Peace Accord


Image:Beilin.jpg


“I can tell the Palestinians and the Israelis that they should not give up hope. There is no real alternative to the two-state solution that will bring peace and stability to our region. The two sides should not give up on their partners for peace but rather strengthen them.”

“The solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict already has been spelled out in all its stages and details. The Middle East does not need new solutions. It needs a kindergarten teacher to separate the two children, splash some cold water on their faces, calm them down, and send them back to the fine place where they left their sanity”

“The Palestinians know we can’t take beyond a symbolic amount of refugees and Israelis know we can’t keep Palestinians in refugee camps. The Palestinians had agreed to being demilitarized. They have said they can’t compete with Israel in planes and tanks and they know that if they have an army, they will be run by generals, so that was not a problem either. The biggest threat to reaching an agreement is the large numbers (of Israeli Jews) living in settlements.”


Background

You are Yossi Beilin, longtime leader of the Israeli peace movement. You were born June 12, 1948 in Petach Tikva, near Tel Aviv, Israel. This was an important year in the history of your country, as it was the year that Israel declared its independence as a state. Later in life you received your doctorate from Tel Aviv University. You became a professor of political science at Tel Aviv University, as well as a scholar in its Institute for the Study of Zionism. For many years you were a journalist and editorial board member for the Israeli newspaper Davar. At Davar you wrote many politically charged articles about Israel and the Middle East conflict, and your interest in joining the political life of Israel began to take shape.

Public Service

You have a long and distinguished resume of public service. For the majority of your political carrier you were a member of the Israel’s Labor party, considered to be ‘left wing.’ You were the official Labor spokesman from 1977-1984, served as Cabinet Secretary from 1984-1986, and were Director-General for Political Affairs of the Foreign Ministry from 1986-1988. In 1988 you were elected to the Knesset, which is the Israeli Parliament. You served as Deputy Minister of Finance from 1988-1990. While in the Knesset you served on many committees, including Foreign Affairs and Defense, Immigration and Absorption, and Constitution, Law, and Justice (a few years later you also joined the committee on the Advancement of the Status of Women). After your election to the Knesset, your next big political step was in 1992 when you were appointed Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, a post which you held for three years. You went on to become Minister of Economics and Planning in July 1995, and Minister without Portfolio in the Prime Minister’s office in November 1995. You were Minister of Justice from July 1999 until March 2001, and were briefly the Religious Affairs Minister, beginning in August 2000. You served in many of these positions under the governments of Labor Prime Ministers such as Shimon Peres, Ehud Barak, and Yitzhak Rabin.

An issue close to your heart is that of ‘Jewish continuity and relations between Israel and Diaspora Jewry,’ and as such you created ‘Birthright.’ Birthright is an educational program that sends young Jewish adults, from the ages of 18-26, to Israel for free. The purpose of this program is to ‘diminish the growing division between Israel and Jewish communities around the world; strengthen the sense of solidarity between Israeli youth and Jewish communities around the world; increase the number of return visits to Israel; and promote the role of Israel as a powerful resource in Jewish learning.’ You have written many articles and books about this cause and find it to be a pressing issue for the Jewish community of Israel and the world. You have also watched with interest as Birthright has been accused by some as being a means for young Diaspora Jews (Jews living outside Israel) to become "indoctrinated" into the security outlook of Prime Minister Netanyahu.

Peace Process

The most salient aspect of your political career has been your involvement in the peace process. You are a leader and advocate for Israel’s continuing peace negotiations with the Palestinians, as well as all the Arab nations that compose the Middle East. You were an essential player in the 1993 Oslo accords between Yitzhak Rabin and Yasser Arafat. It was you who initiated the secret talks with Palestinians that ultimately led to these negotiations. In 1995 you and Mahmoud Abbas (also known as Abu Mazen), a Palestinian leader, created the Beilin-Abu Mazen Agreement, which was a ‘non-paper’ that contained guidelines for a resolution to the conflict between your two peoples. You were a participant in the Taba Talks of 2001, created and led a movement for unilateral Israeli withdrawal from Lebanon, and most importantly were the key player, along with Yasser Abid Rabbo, in the Geneva Accords. This has given you a lot of credibility on Palestinian issues, but during the rightward swing of Israeli politics under the Sharon and Netanyahu governments, you became something of a voice in the wilderness: an Israeli politician who believed in the Oslo accords and truly wanted to make peace with the Palestinians.

Meretz-Yachad

In 2002 you broke away from the Labor party and started Meretz-Yahad, which is the Hebrew acronym for a Social Democratic Israel. Yahad considered itself to be a Jewish- Arab Social Democratic party, and as a coalition of smaller Israeli leftist-socialist parties is the sharpest, if not loudest, voice calling for the revival of the peace process. Yahad no longer exicsts, but Meretz has become the most prominent left-wing, pro-peace party, although it is not a major player in Israeli politics. Meretz is a Zionist party that promotes ideas of peace and human rights—values which you believe can be pursued without sacrificing Israel's security and the Jewish character of Israel. According to the Meretz-Yahad platform, Israel veered away from its national values by holding onto the conquests of the 1967 war, pouring massive amounts of money into holding the Occupied Territories while earning nothing but the enmity of its neighbors and the tarnishing of its international reputation. The occupation must end, according to your platform, which included the dismantling of all settlements and a concerted effort to engage Israel’s neighbors constructively, thereby setting the stage for wider regional peace agreements. Here are some of the most important platforms of your party:

--An “Affirmative Action” program designed to fully include Israeli Arabs into the larger society of Israel. You believe this will alleviate current inequalities in the Israel economy which currently reward the descendants of European Zionists and impoverish other social classes.

--The establishment of a fully independent Palestinian state living side by side with the state of Israel. This Palestinian state will be given control of the Temple Mount and the Arab portions of Jerusalem, while the western Jewish regions of the city will be possessions of Israel. If both sides agree to it, you are also open to the idea of Jerusalem being fully converted into an internationally-administered city.

--Compensation for Palestinian refugees instead of right of return—this calls for subsidies to help refugees incorporate themselves into the new Palestinian state, as well as the countries where they currently reside. Likewise, you are in favor of allowing a limited number to even return to Israel, though you are against right of return as a blanket solution to the refugee problem.

--The return to secular values within the state of Israel. You are against the imposition of religious law in legal matters: currently, rabbis have a significant amount of influence over several aspects of Israeli law, most notably personal status laws like marriage and inheritance. You feel this is against the creed of the Zionist founders themselves, who believed in freedom of religion, but being refugees from oppression in Europe, believed even more strongly in freedom from religion.

Roleplaying Notes

Your record shows that you are a visionary politician and civil leader. You are a committed believer in the peace process, which you helped author, but also a pragmatic politician with a strong history of public service. Your political experience, as well as your natural temperament, tells you that peace is not only morally desirable, it is the clearest way to ensure the survival of the state of Israel. While your political power was always limited, you maintain influence over a key component of the public’s conscience, since you have been one of the few politicians with the courage to stand up and demand that Israel not seek peace by redrawing the political map or attaining overwhelming military power, but by honestly engaging its neighbors and showing the entire world that Israelis want to live in peace.

When Tzipi Livni took the helm of the Kadima Party after her primary victory in September 2008, she was charged by President Shimon Peres with forming a governing coalition and, rather than risking new elections which Kadima would quite possibly lose, Livni turned to your Meretz Party to join the coalition, offering you a central role in negotiations with the Palestinians. This decision was explained, in part, by your long relationship with Marwan Barghouti, the Prisoners' Movement leader who was once thought to be a likely future Palestinian leader before he was imprisoned due to his role in the Second Intifada. Your challenge then remained a central challenge for Ms. Livni, which was to find the still-elusive path to peace that meets the needs of the Palestinians and that makes the case to the Israeli public that a successful peace process in which both Israelis and Palestinians fully participate and feel a stake in upholding, is the best assurance of a robust future for your beloved homeland of Israel.

Like your colleagues Tzipi Livni and Ami Ayalon, you are freed now from the burden of elective office. Some might say that this gives you no power, but your job (and your opportunity!) is to come at this question from precisely the opposite angle. With no worries of the political consequences, you can now make a clear and unapologetic case to Israel and the world community that a peaceful resolution with the Palestinians is not only in Israel's best interests, but is very much attainable. No one can say that you've reached this point in the interest of political gain, so use this additional credibility to persuade and, yes, to shame. As you wrote in an editorial calling on the-then American Secretary of State John Kerry to push for a renewed peace process: "Options are limited and business as usual is not one of them. Israel will soon find itself as a Jewish state governing a greater number of Palestinians (when accounting for the Occupied Territories and Arab Israelis) than Jews. Most of Israel's citizens and the international community will never accept such a situation. It is just a matter of time before Palestinians in the West bank will no longer be able to live with the fact that Gaza is flourishing and receiving legitimacy and funding from the Arab world, while they depend on handouts, beg the Arab world to fulfill their promises, and wait for Israel to give them the funds they are owed."

So you hold no elected office and it seems that few Israelis are in the mood for making peace with the Palestinians; how do you proceed? You start by arguing that Israeli needs a border between it and the Palestinians--for Israel’s own self-interest and security. You need to make the case that a negotiated settlement is what will protect Israel’s security, and that Palestinian President Abbas “still says security coordination with Israel is sacred, and I don’t believe we have a better partner than him.” You have also spoken about a confederation between Israel and a future Palestinian state, along with continued security cooperation, and you believe that this combination is the only thing that will prevent jihadist groups from taking over a demilitarized Palestinian state. This confederation of states would not only make a safer Israel, but separating into two states would eliminate the risk that the Palestinians would soon outnumber Israeli Jews, putting the Jewish nature of the state at risk. A lot of Western leaders have grown tired of Prime Minister Netanyahu’s unwillingness to entertain the idea of a negotiated settlement and will be open to hearing new ideas from you…get out there and make the case!


References

Your Personal website (a great resource!): http://www.beilin.org.il/#!home/mainPage

http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2013/02/06/kerry-must-hurry.html

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yossi_Beilin

http://www.prospect.org/print/V13/5/beilin-y.html

http://www.jewishaz.com/jewishnews/040409/yossi.shtml

http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/pages/QA.jhtml?qaNo=106

http://www.mfa.gov.il/MFA/MFAArchive/2000_2009/2003/10/Yossi+Beilin.htm?DisplayMode=print

http://www.myparty.org.il/main-branch/en/contents/2325.html

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yachad

http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/pages/ShArt.jhtml?itemNo=737198

http://www.forward.com/articles/call-war-weakened-leaders-to-a-second-madrid-confe/

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