IMRA interviewed Mossy Raz, political secretary of Peace Now, in Hebrew, on December 19.
IMRA: This week the Prime Minister’s Office released a collection of anti-Semitic material which has come out of the Palestinian Authority (PA), including material denying the Holocaust broadcast on the PA’s official television station, their Ministry of Information Internet site which claims that there is no archeological evidence of a tie between the Jewish People and Jerusalem, etc. How do you, as a man of peace engaged in dialogue with Palestinians, see this?
Raz: I see it as very serious. I see it as I imagine you or any other Israeli sees similar incidents – in their thousands – in the United States, France or other countries.
IMRA: We are not talking about something from marginal people. We are talking about something which came out from the PA’s Ministry of Information. We aren’t talking about marginal group. This is the official site of the PA.
Raz: This in on the archeological mater?
IMRA: Yes, the archeological matter – that not even one piece of archeological evidence that there were Jews living in the Old City of Jerusalem has been found. Apparently they are not aware of the Burnt House or the Hasmonean Palace.
Raz: First of all I don’t think that there are many such incidents. Again, we both know how unimportant such offices as the Ministry of Information are to the PA.
So they had some kind of failure – not that I take it lightly, but I don’t see how this goes any where. We have friendly relations with many countries – something we don’t have with the PA, we still have relations between us of hatred and breaking of agreements.
IMRA: Countries which deny the historical connection of the Jews to Jerusalem?
Raz: That isn’t the official position of the PA.
IMRA: Only their Ministry of Information.
Raz: They didn’t say there is no tie.
IMRA: They say there is no proof of a tie.
Raz: Understand, I don’t want to defend every stupidity of theirs. I only say that you have to put it in its proper proportion.
IMRA: I spoke with the Palestinian Minister of Religion Tahboob, and he explained to me that since the Western Wall is the “al-Baraq Wall” if they are in control they will allow Jews to pray facing it but they can’t get within two meters of the Wall since it is part of the al-Aksa Mosque.
Raz: Since they will not control that area, the whole matter doesn’t interest me.
IMRA: Because you don’t think they will control the Wall?
IMRA: Why not? If they control Jerusalem?
Raz: You are drawing me into describing my solution for Jerusalem. I see as the solution that Jewish neighborhoods in Jerusalem will be like Rehavia and the Arab neighborhoods will be like Ramallah. If it is like that then the Wall will be like Rehavia.
IMRA: So the entire matter is not relevant?
Raz: Yes. Clearly there are struggles between us which are religious – like the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron. I don’t follow everything he says as you do, but if you were to tell me that he said that if he controls it that he won’t let Jews in…
IMRA: He explains a simple thing: The Cave of the Patriarchs is a mosque. And Jews – or for that matter anyone who is not a Moslem – can come to visit inside as a tourist, but he can’t pray there.
Raz: Yes. Yes. It is clear that to a great extent there is a religious dispute which makes it difficult to reach a solution where the two sides have the same place holy to them.
IMRA: If you knew a priori that the moment you allow them to control a place like the Cave of the Patriarchs that they will be in a situation that they would have a hard time facing their people if they permitted Jewish prayer, that they would not permit Jewish prayer, then would you say that the site can’t be given to PA control?
Raz: No. I don’t agree with you. Since the land has to be divided. There are two nations. Certain places require certain arrangements. The City of Hebron will be entirely under Palestinian control beyond any shadow of a doubt. It is impossible that there will be any arrangement except one under which all of Hebron, including the Cave of the Patriarchs, is under Palestinian control.
IMRA: Even if you know, a priori, that that means barring Jewish prayer there.
Raz: As an Israeli I will be very happy if they also permit Jews to pray there but I think that Jews, and in particular Israelis, will find it difficult to protest this matter after we have destroyed hundreds and thousands of mosques and after we have prevented freedom of religion for Moslems in so many places. It would be very hypocritical for us to say ‘we found one place in this land where our freedom of religion is denied’. For every place that Jews are denied freedom of religion I can show you a thousand places were Moslems are denied freedom of religion.
IMRA: What’s the big deal about the Wall? We are talking about a supporting wall.
Raz: From a religious standpoint?
IMRA: From a national standpoint. From a religious standpoint we are talking about a supporting wall of the Temple Mount as compared to the Cave of the Patriarchs. I am trying to understand why from a national standpoint this is so much more important. That you are so certain and convinced that it has to be held.
Raz: We are entering a theological argument and I am not a religious man. I know that 999 out of every 1,000 citizens in the State of Israel think that the Wall is more important than the Cave of the Patriarchs. Now I am not interested in a historical arguments as to why it is important.
It has another advantage. It is in Jerusalem. In the Jewish Quarter. The Cave of the Patriarchs is in Hebron which has a Palestinian majority, and this has to also be kept in mind. So when you think of the future of the two places there is no comparison between them in terms of their political futures.
IMRA: I heared Shimon Peres when he was on television with Yitzchak Shamir and he said something like this: what is more important, stones or sons. And just last week I spoke with Brig. Gen. (res.) Aharon Levran and he said that if you are concerned only with defending “little Israel” – Gederah to Hadera, that there are areas in the West Bank which are strategically more important than Jerusalem. Why then this bitter dispute with the Palestinians over Jerusalem.
Raz: The approach is distorted because you are explaining to me that we should take additions from the West Bank in order to protect Israel and I say to you that 10% of Israel is Jerusalem so if you take away Jerusalem you give up on part of Israel. It is OK to talk about areas which you think are necessary to add to Israel for its defense but you can’t touch anything in Israel.
IMRA: I am raising this for a different reason. When I talk with many Palestinians – not Hamas – members of the PLC, even ministers, and they tell me that they want all of the Old City and all of Eastern Jerusalem. And I think to myself, if Shimon Peres is right, that in every case sons are more important than stones, then why this whole story with the Old City and the rest? They also are stones.
Raz: That’s true. Everything is a question of proportions. I can’t tell you that today that I know how the solution will be. Of course if we give back 39% it can always be argued that, by the same token, we could have returned 100%.
I say one thing. In my eyes stones are not holy and we have to use the fact that we conquered the territories in 1967 which until now only brought us disasters – with the exception of one good thing – something which is more important than anything else and that is that it can be used to reach a peace arrangements.
Now if it were possible to have a true peace and return 40% of the area then believe me, I would not object. I think I know the cost, more or less, of peace. I do this on the basis of conversations with Palestinians. And I do not think that the Wall is part of the price while the Cave of the Patriarchs is part of the price.
In any case, I think that it is worthwhile to reach an agreement which is based on the principle of our returning territory from 1967.
IMRA: Labor leader Barak talks about separation of the Palestinians from the Israelis as if there will be some kind of Berlin Wall separating the two while in contrast the Palestinians see things more Peres style – something like a binational state or two states with much interaction.
Raz: This is something which I think is very important, very interesting and cuts across the camps in Israel. I believe in a combination of the two. I think most do. In the first stage we have to have separation – and we basically already have this even if it mean violations of the agreements. But in the long range there has to be a situation of living more together – otherwise it isn’t peace.
So in the short run I see something like what Barak is talking about and in the long run what Peres is talking about.