"It Can Be
Done" An Interview With an Israeli Peace Activist
by elana levy
Dr. Galia Golan has been a leader of Peace Now (an Israeli peace group), a founding member of Bat Shalom (daughter of peace) and the Israel Women's Network. She has written extensively on the Arab-Israeli conflict, Israel-Palestinian dialogue, and gender and militarization. The following are excerpts of an interview with elana levy, which will be broadcast on Women's Voices Radio, Thursday, October 13, 8-9 pm, FM88.
el: How would you characterize the present situation in Israel-Palestine?
GG: We're almost in a holding position right now. Everybody is holding their breath to see what's going to happen. It could be a period of tremendous positive potential, if this were a first step. This was a tremendous achievement to finally withdraw: to take out the military, take down 25 settlements and basically defeat the settler movement, or at least strike a serious blow. We proved that we can take down settlements, which is absolutely required to have a peace agreement. The settlers pulled out all the stops to prevent disengagement. In the end it went very quickly, very smoothly. It was proof, when the government makes a decision, the Knesset [Israeli parliament] approves it, the population is for it, the settlers can't stop it.
One thing which is clear, if Israel continues settlement building and targeted assassinations, if there's no progress towards further withdrawals, if there's no return to negotiations, all will collapse. Hamas will regain strength and begin their terrorism again. You can count on the Israeli government to bring in the air force again. This is the history of occupation. Occupation is going to breed resistance, resistance is going to breed oppression, and the whole thing spirals. This has been going on for years. The people know that. The army knows that, the government knows it, the Palestinians also know it. But there are many Palestinians who say it was violence that got Israel out of Lebanon, and it was violence that got them out of Gaza. And then say, let's continue. It could happen that way.
The US corporation which supplies bulldozers to the Israeli military
Saturday, October 29
Place and time to be announced
This is one of a coordinated set of protests in the Northeast to hold
Caterpillar Corporation accountable for the use of its bulldozers by the
el: Where do the Israeli people situate themselves in this whole struggle?
GG: The tragedy of it is, both peoples, the Israelis and the Palestinians, have had enough. You have majority support in Israel and Palestine for a two state solution. And a sense, certainly on the Israeli side, of a willingness to take down most of the settlements. It doesn't mean these things would happen easily. The publics on both sides are ready. But there was also serious damage done by the failures of the past. The failure of Oslo talks, the failure of the Camp David talks, the al Aqsa intifada, and the tremendous amount of violence and killings on both sides was traumatic for both societies and will be hard to overcome. But the truth is you have Palestinian leadership that opposed the intifada, that said this is not the way to get back to negotiations. In Israel you still have a strong tendency that says there is no partner on the other side. The only hope is to get back to negotiations. There is a partner on the Palestinian side, and we have to prove there is an Israeli partner. There is this sense that now the Palestinians have to prove that they can rule themselves. In my opinion, Abu Mazzin can't do that without some further gesture from Israel. The withdrawal from Gaza was not a victory for Abu Mazzin, it was unilateral, had nothing to do with his leadership. The peace movement in Israel is pressing to take down outposts, to freeze settlements, release of prisoners, that will strengthen Abu Mazzin's position that negotiations are the way to go
el: As peace activists in the US, how can we effectively support the peace forces in Israel?
GG: I believe that in the US, the most effective thing is pressing the government to take an active role, much the way the Clinton administration did, in getting negotiations going again. Bringing pressure on both sides to negotiate, and negotiate till agreement.
Everybody knows what an agreement will look like. You've got to get these guys into a room. There will be militants on both sides who won't like it, but it can be done. The tragedy is that we go on killing each other until we get there. In the past it's only been American pressure and domestic pressure that's made any difference in Israel. I want to see a return to negotiations. I want to see strong positions on both sides that violence isn't going to do it, razing the villages isn't going to do it, settlement expansion isn't going to do it, and neither is suicide bombings.
It can be done. There are solutions.
elana levy (email@example.com)
has actively worked for Israeli-Palestinian peace since 1982 in Syracuse. She
is a member of Syracuse Jewish Peace.