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Akiva Eldar
Photo by Rhonda Spivak.


by Rhonda Spivak, posted Nov 29, 2012

[Editor's Note:  Akiva Eldar has just retired as [Editor's Note: Akiva Eldar has just retired after 35 years at Ha'aretz. To read his final column go to: I found this piece I had written about Eldar when he gave a talk for the 40th Anniversary of the Six Day War in 2007, and am reprinting it now. Eldar has been a long-time advocate of the two state solution, but what caught my attention now is what he said about the  disengagement form Gaza]


by Rhonda Spivak, April 2007

Akiva Eldar, chief political columnist for the left-wing Israeli national daily Ha’aretz newspaper  said in a lecture he gave at the Herzlia Interdisciplinary Centre in April 2007 that he was agianst  Israel’s disengagement from Gaza in August 2005.

Eldar said ‘I was the only one on the Ha’aretz editorial board that was against Israel’s unilateral withdrawal [ from Gaza]., because I was against the unilateral part of it.”

According to Eldar, Ariel Sharon failed to take into account the possibility that disengagement without an agreement with the Palestinians would increase the threat against the communities in southern Israel, and also would lead to a Hamas takeover in Gaza.

In the  lecture , Eldar referred to the Arab initiative as a “historic” opportunity that should not be missed. The plan recognizes Israel as a Jewish state, and accepts the need for the normalization between Israel. Eldar adds that he does not believe that the status quo is an option.

Eldar , who was selected by the Financial times in May 2006 as among the most prominent and influential commentators in the world, believes that the settlements, with a Jewish population of 270,000 do not afford Israel the security it needs.

He believes that the Israeli occupation of  the West Bank since 1967 “ has corrupted Israeli society.” As Eldar says “[After conquering the territory], we invented the idea of an enlightened occupation (kibbush na’or)…But there is no such thing as an enlightened occupation…The occupation corrupts.  Period.”

Reflecting on the settlement movement, Eldar, who was born in Haifa in 1945, says, ‘We have to look back at Israel’s Declaration of Independence, and ask ourselves whether  after forty years of the occupation  we are closer to the principles set out there or further from them…The occupation was good business for us and good for our export and we weren’t good to them [the Palestinians we conquered].  I know.  I was part of it…And the occupation didn’t help advance the notion that we give the Arabs [in Israel] the ability to become full citizens of Israel with equality.”

According to Eldar, “the lack of consideration by settlers to neighboring Palestinians” also translates into problems within Israeli society.  “The same person who behaves with gasoot (inappropriately, rudely) to his Palestinian neighbor will behave the same way to other Israelis and also to his wife and children….Whoever breaks international laws in the end will also break domestic laws….There is no such thing as good behavior in the home and bad behavior outside,” he says.

Eldar is of the view that the two army brigades that protect the outposts in the West bank could be better used on the northern front with Hizbollah and Syria.

Reflecting on the evacuation of the Jewish settlements in Gaza, Eldar says  “In the last 40 years the settlers have cut themselves off from the rest of Israeli society, and then they didn’t get support from the general public in Israel  when it came to disengagement…Their lack of caring for their Palestinian neighbors boomeranged on them and we [Israelis]had little patience for the pain of the evacuees.”

Eldar, who in the early 1970’s was a spokesperson for  former Jerusalem Mayor, Teddy Kolleck  believes that  by fully withdrawing from the Sinai in its peace agreement with Egypt, Israel has created a precedent with the Palestinian track.  If Israel wants to keep parts of the West Bank, it will have to compensate the Palestinians in land swaps.
When asked about the neighborhood of French Hill which was built  near the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in East Jerusalem after the 1967 war , Eldar says  “No, I don’t have a problem with that [remaining under Israeli sovereignity]. If Israel concludes a peace-agreement with the Palestinians Eldar believes French Hill will be the border with a Palestinian state.

In a the recently published book, “Lords of the Land-The Settlers and the State of Israel,1967-2004, which Eldar has co-authored, he says, “The development of the settlements would not have been possible without the massive aid from various government agencies, the legal stamp of approval, and the warm, but also pragmatic relationship forged between the settlers and the top military brass.”

Eldar notes that when Shimon Peres was Defense Minister during Yitzhak Rabin’s first term as Prime Minister, Peres co-operated with Gush Emunim and paved the way for the illegal squatting by the Sebastia settlers.  Under the brief term of Former Prime Minister Ehud Barak, building in the territories rose the steepest since the Oslo Agreement.  In Eldar’s view, before disengagement from Gaza, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon expanded settlements closest to his heart and channeled very large amounts of money into existing settlements “‘for new neighborhoods.”

In the immediate aftermath of  last summer’s Second war in Lebanon, Prime Minister Olmert was so politically weakened that he was in no position to challenge the settlers.   As Eldar says “The settlers felt much stronger because there was a kind of consensus that the disengagement was a mistake, they are the underdogs, they  paid the price for the mistake and everybody in the Israeli mainstream has to ask for forgiveness…”

Eldar fears that if the upcoming Mideast peace conference in Annanapolis is seen as a failure, then the credibility of PA President Mahmoud Abbas will be tarnished, and the prospect of a two-state solution will fade.  This will strengthen Hamas and the extremists in the region.

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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.