Meet The Knesset #2: Einat Wilf (INN) ISRAEL NATIONAL NEWS) by Gavriel Queenann 02/01/11)
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Meet the Knesset is a new feature from Israel National News dedicated
to bringing you Israel´s leaders in their own words on the issues
Israel faces today.
INN´s Gavriel Queenann: Dr. Wilf is a member of Ehud Barak´s
breakaway HaAtzma´ut or Independence Faction in the 18th Kenesset.
She served as a lieutenant with the IDF´s ´Shmoneh Ma´atayim´ or Unit
8-200 in signals intelligence and decryption, holds a BA in
Government and Fine Arts from Harvard University an MBA from SEAD in
France and a PhD in Political Science from Cambridge University. She
was a foreign policy adviser to Vice Prime Minister Shimon Peres. She
replaced MK Ophir Pines-Paz as the 13th member of the Labor faction
of 2009. MK Wilf has found herself at the center of controversy over
Ehud Barak´s recent decision to break from the Labor Party.
MK Wilf, Shalom
A: Shalom, shalom.
Q: You´ve been criticized as Ehud Barak´s stalking horse to break the
Labor Party. How can you respond to that?
A: I have made my own decision, and I´ve made it for a long-standing
reasons... Within the Labor Party there were at least two factions;
some would say many more. One that was increasingly turning to the
Left, and viewing the cooperation with the Government as untenable,
viewing it as a clear opposition, and another faction that viewed it
as a proper cooperation with pragmatic and moderate elements in the
Likud, and also a better reflection of where they would like to see
the Labor Party go, to
something more Centrist, that harks back to its roots as Mapai, the
more Centrist, Ben-Gurionist party.
So that was on the kind of ideological gap. In addition, the faction
that now remains Labor behaved in a way that was, I would say,
unsustainable, every person doing whatever they want, voting however
they want, going against the elected chairman, ...in the last few
weeks, the feeling was of complete anarchy and breakdown. And when
this idea came up, I saw that it was a brilliant way to resolve what
was essentially a Gordian Knot. So, to take and cut it with one move,
allow the two parts to begin their independent way, ...the more
leftist, socialist part and the more centrist, Ben-Gurionist part.
Q: Polls reveal that most Israelis feel that Labor is dead, and that
it has abandoned it social agenda altogether. Has the mainstream
Labor Party become irrelevant in Israeli politics today?
A: The Labor Party has been in decline for a long time. There are
many reasons for it. Even the greatest detractors of Ehud Barak
concede that he cannot be solely responsible for that. I think one of
the reasons is that is has gone too much to the Left. Not in the
sense of looking for a compromise with the Palestinians, or looking
for peace, but in this self-flagellation of seeing Israel as the sole
responsible party for the fact that there´s no peace in the region.
But I think the bigger explanation has to do with demographics, the
changing nature of Israeli society, and the failure of the Labor
Party to really adapt itself to those changes. From the party that
built the state, it became the party of those who felt that the state
was taken away from them. And that is not a way that you govern, and
that you attract … [cutoff “voters”].
Q: You´ve been widely quoted as saying Ha´Atzma´ut won´t hold a
stopwatch to the peace process, but in watching current events, the
Palestinians have downgraded their official ties with Israel and are
attempting to gain international recognition for a maximalist
position outside of the negotiation framework. Doesn´t that make Oslo
a dead letter?
A: Ultimately there´s numerous ways that the Israelis and the
Palestinians have been negotiating, non-negotiating, taking
unilateral steps, going to the international community. If you look
at the sweep of the last twenty years, in that very messy way we´re
making slow progress. The Palestinians themselves know that they
might even be able to get a state declared, or they might be able to
get certain countries to accept their statehood, but if they actually
want a state, there is no other way [but] to interact and negotiate
Q: Does HaAtzma´ut have a peace plan? I mean, a way of engaging
A: We´re not changing the parameters and offers that were made by
Ehud Barak at Camp David, but it´s been ten years since then. All of
us have become far more skeptical of the possibility of full,
complete, final agreements being in the cards tomorrow morning.
We believe that it has to do with the geopolitics much more than the
personalities. And should the possibility open up, I have no doubt
that the alliance and the cooperation between the Prime Minister and
the Defense Minister is a very strong basis for an agreement that
would be acceptable to the vast majority of Israelis. But ultimately
we are skeptical, and the question is, is it truly possible?
Q: At Camp David, Ehud Barak offered the Palestinians an
unprecedented 91% of the West Bank. In doing so he was rebuffed, but
that included the highlands of Judea and Samaria which oversee the
coastal plain and Tel Aviv. Is it really possible to give that
territory up, and maintain Israel´s security?
A: I´m sure this is something that the Prime Minister and the
Defense Minister are talking about. There are arrangements that could
be made which will ensure Israel some security, and will not just
make it an issue of what, a piece of paper. But that is part of very
hard and tough negotiations, and also it´s one of the reasons that it
raises a question mark on the possibility of reaching an agreement.
Q: Doesn´t the pervasive anti-Semitism in P.A. Schools and the media
make living side-by-side with the Palestinians a sociological
impossibility at this point? Doesn´t there have to be a deep cultural
change before we can really talk to them?
A: There´s no doubt that Israel is an oddity in this region. One of
the reasons for the deep skepticism is that especially in the last
decade, many people who were willing to go for far-reaching
compromises have begun to wonder whether the nature of the conflict
is not just about borders, but whether it is a more existential
conflict about the very willingness to accept Israel as the homeland
of the Jewish people in this region – the only region in which we
were ever sovereign. I think the brilliance of the leaders of Zionism
in the early days, is that they didn´t go for all-or-nothing
approaches. They wanted to have a state for the Jewish people, and
they took whatever was possible. And I think it´s even remarkable to
think that the Peel Commission in ´37, Ben-Gurion was the only far-
reaching person who was able to see that it was important to take it
then, and he was forced to refuse because no one else shared his
views. But just think what would have happened if we had a state in
What makes me a little more optimistic is especially the character of
Fayyad. He really seems to have that understanding, that first and
foremost the Palestinians need to build a state, and the all-or-
nothing approach is not going to bring them the dignity of
Q: Recent polls indicate, were elections to be held today, the
HaAtzma´ut Party would not pass the threshold to win seats in the
Kenesset. How do you plan on securing your party´s future?
A: Well, first of all, we´re on the threshold... We´re only five
now. We´ll start. The burden of proof is on us. I think it will be
clear that we are truly offering new,
original thinking in the Israeli political map. That we are going to
be a far more coherent party, coherent group. I think ultimately we
will be a challenge to some of the other parties.
Q: Israelis really have no idea what that coherent message is. What
does HaAtzma´ut stand for? I know that it´s been described as
centrist, democratic and Zionist, but that´s really more ´buzz´ than
information. What´s new, here?
Well, I think in terms of the information, we will supply it over
time, with the initiatives which we will promote, the ideas that we
will push forward, to begin to clarify what it means to be, for a
country to be independent, in the twenty-first century. These are
things that time will tell. We´re taking our cue from someone like
Ben-Gurion, who was incredibly able to have both vision, but also to
adapt to historical changes. (© IsraelNN Syndications 02/01/11)
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