Video Interview with Elyakim Rubinstein

by April 2024

Interview with Elyakim Rubinstein – Former Israeli Peace Negotiator and Supreme Court Justice.

Interviewer: Ksenia Svetlova.

Read the full transcript below. 

Ksenia Svetlova: Do you believe that Israel can achieve security in the West Bank and also in the south near Gaza, without the fundamental question of solving the Palestinian issue. You negotiated Camp David [in 1978] and joined the following West Bank autonomy talks and also later at the [1992] Madrid Peace Conference, you led the Israeli delegation. What do you think?

Elyakim Rubinstein: I would say there isn’t much room for over-optimism because experience has shown that the main problem which has remained with the Palestinians, and I am sorry to say it because it’s not something which I would like to believe in, is their readiness to accept our existence as a national Jewish democratic state here in the area.

When this problem was raised in the past, I used to say well, they signed Oslo Agreement [in 1994], which I wasn’t a part of, and they agreed to continue working, and I was also with [Prime Minister] Ehud Barak in 2000 in the failed Camp David, unlike the Egyptian Camp David [in 1978]. I used to think, why do we need their recognition? Who cares? What we need is not that they will recognize us, but that they will make peace with us. But it seems for them, and I can’t say for all of them, because they are not exactly all the same, the acceptance of Israel, at least Hamas for sure and those who have this jihadist ideology, they don’t accept our existence. The Palestinian Authority is there, but it’s very weak. It doesn’t take the role of national leadership. It doesn’t leave much room for optimism.

But we should not despair. We should continue to try. Why do I say that? Not only because our national ethos is peace, but because the soldier in the field should know or should feel that while he’s fighting for our security, there is somebody in Jerusalem sitting and thinking on how to find political and diplomatic solutions.

I want to underline, I’m not an optimistic peacenik who sees the world through rose-tinted glasses. I’m very realistic. But there’s no contradiction and it’s the national ethos. It’s in the Declaration of Independence, which I carry in my pocket here together with a few of the Basic Laws. It says [pulling it out of pocket], and I’m translating “We extend a hand of peace and good neighborly relationships to all of our neighboring states and their peoples,” and before that [in the text] “We call on the Arab citizens of Israel to take part in the building of the state.”

Ksenia Svetlova
Ksenia Svetlova is the Executive Director of ROPES (The Regional Organization for Peace, Economics & Security) and a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council’s Middle East Programs. She is a former member of the Knesset.
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