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Dr. Ron Pundak
Photo by Rhonda Spivak

Shimon Peres
Photo by Rhonda Spivak


by Rhonda Spivak, first posted September 28, 2011, reposted October 19, 2011

Statements that Dr. Ron Pundak, who was then Director of the Peres Centre for Peace, made to the Winnipeg Jewish Review in an interview at the J-Street conference in Washington at the end of February 2010 appear to have landed him in trouble.

When I first reported on Pundak’s statements (to be outlined below), I would not have imagined that they would have affected  Pundak's employment, but this chain of events speaks to the the global reach of this publication. 

At the J Street conference, I reported that Pundak, director of the Peres Centre for Peace and an architecht of the Oslo Accords referred to PA President Mahmoud Abbas and PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad as a “dream ticket,” saying that Israel “will not find better leaders working for peace.”

In my interview with Pundak, he expressed satisfaction that even though the Israeli government chose not to send Ambassador Michael Oren or any representative from the government to the J-Street conference, Peres as President saw fit to send formal greetings to the conference. Pundak told the Winnipeg Jewish Review:

“Peres believes in [ going in] one direction and the [Israeli] government believes in another. Peres is a man who believes in pursuing peace in any way, in any option and the [Israeli government under Netanyahu] is the opposite,” said Pundak. He noted that the current Israeli government was doing all it could to thwart a peace agreement.

“So there’s a conflict between two lines” [that of Peres and the Israeli government], Pundak added.

Pundak added that “The Peres center very much supports the activities of J-Street”, confirming that the Peres center is one of the “participating organizations” at the conference.

I also reported on the fact that Pundak , who  had been  the director of the Peres Centre for the last ten years, called on  the Obama administration to impose a solution for  the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

At a session which I attended  at the conference Pundak criticized “the person in the White house” for “doing nothing” to make a two state solution to become reality. He also said that Obama should take action in the very near future.

After the session, when  I  asked Pundak why he was calling on Obama to impose a solution on the parties, rather than getting out on the streets and working to convince Israelis of his position and cause his government to fall, Pundak replied: “ But, how do we do it?

Pundak added that, ‘This is also an international interest not only our interest. We don’t have a government which is willing to move forward so we need to impose something.”

The guts of  Pundak’s above remarks reported in the Winnipeg Jewish Review were referred to extensively in a feature article by David Bedein of the Israel Resource News Agency that was published in  the Israeli paper Makor Rishon  and on the News 1 Israeli website in  June.

On June 12, 2011 we received a letter of thanks from David Bedein of the Israel Resource News Agency regarding Pundak's remarks and the  Peres Centre:  

“Your coverage of the role of the Peres Center and the Peres letter at the J Street conference in Washington played a crucial part in the piece that our agency has just published  in Hebrew as a feature  in the Makor Rishon newspaper and on the News1 web news magazine, both of which are published in Tel Aviv. The link to our piece can be found here :

Pundak’s comments as referred to in Bedein’s feature article appear to have gotten back to the Prime Minister Netanyahu’s office and also the office of  President Shimon Peres.

On July 8, 2011  Ben Caspit in the Israeli Hebrew Daily Ma’ariv  reported that as of July 1, 2011 Ron Pundak was no longer director for the Peres Centre. Caspit wrote that Peres is now “interested in preserving his own personal legacy and his own name,” and not in protecting Pundak.   Caspit wrote that Pundak’s unflattering references to Netanyahu's government as doing everything it could to thwart peace and his talk about Israelis needing to go out to the streets  to fight for peace got back to both President Peres’s office and the Prime Minister’s office.

According to Caspit, Pundak was summoned by his patron Peres to provide a clarification of his remarks.  Caspit wrote “Hadevarim Hayoo Kashim”[Matters were difficult.], and in the end the “historic covenant between Peres and Pundak, one that had continued for decades, was ended.”

Caspit’s article is clear in suggesting that Peres put Pundak out to pasture in order to preserve Peres's own reputation among members of the Israeli government.

The real question is whether Pundak was saying something that Peres disagrees with or whether Peres had no problem with the line that Pundak was taking as long as it didn’t get back to the  Prime minister’s office (I have a hunch that the latter is closer to the truth).

Whatever the case, Pundak has left quietly, and did not wish to comment for the Ma’ariv report.

I have been asked if I regret reporting what I did. The answer is no. I did not have any specific desire to get Pundak in trouble for his remarks. My task is to report on them fairly, which is what I did.


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Rhonda Spivak, Editor

Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.

Opinions expressed in letters to the editor or articles by contributing writers are not necessarily endorsed by Winnipeg Jewish Review.