Immigrant Absorption Minister Yuli Tamir: Excerpts from an Interview on The Newshour with Jim Lehrer
July 11, 2000

RAY SUAREZ: Ms. Tamir, what should Americans understand, or what should they know to help them understand why this (the Middle East Summit) is so hard?

MIN. TAMIR: Well, I think this is a very difficult conflict between two peoples who have their own claims for justice, and who wish to find a way to live together under very complicated circumstances.

We have gone a very long way since the beginning of the conflict. But as we were told right now, there are certain very crucial issues now on the table, and I admire Prime Minister Barak for being ready to come here and discuss those issues, knowing very well that those are very difficult issues to solve, and nevertheless being very determined to try and solve them in order to secure the future of Israel and to bring about the gift of peace for the future generations.

MR. SUAREZ: Well, just in the past few weeks, spokesmen, or people who claim to be spokesmen, from both sides, have talked about an outbreak of violence if this isn’t settled soon. Why have things reached such a critical point? We see it’s seven years since that handshake in the Rose Garden with President Clinton. Why is 2000 leaving everyone on the knife edge?

MIN. TAMIR: I think that one principle we should stress — that the risk of the eruption of violence comes only from the Palestinian side. And we have been going through a long process of negotiations — that is true. But we are now I think coming to a point where we are really offering a realistic deal that could be an end to the conflict. And I think that the risk of violence comes from the fact that it is very hard, especially on the Palestinian side, to come to grips with the fact that that kind of an agreement will remain a very painful compromise.

MR. SUAREZ: But when you say especially on the Palestinian side, both leaders say that they understand fully that they can’t get everything they want in this negotiation. Would you say that that’s true for the people who stand behind these leaders?

MIN. TAMIR: Well, I’m quite sure that that is true for the Israeli public. We know very well that in order to come to an agreement we have to make a compromise — a very painful compromise for us, as it is by the way very painful for the Palestinians. In this kind of a conflict where justice meets justice, I believe that there are only very painful compromises.

The question is how strong a leader is, to bring back home a painful compromise. And I think that Barak is a strong leader in that respect, that he can bring back a painful compromise, because people trust him, because people know that he is – as we call him in Israel, Soldier Number One – that he is a person that has the security interests of Israel in his mind, and he is devoted to providing Israel with the best and secure future.

The question is whether the Palestinians now, when we are offering them a generous deal, whether they are ready to sign the deal and to look forward to a future of cooperation between the two peoples in the Middle East. …

I am surprised that Hanan [Ashwari – also being interviewed] — if I may call you Hanan, because we are good friends — talks about unilateral attempts to sort of impose a solution. We are here in a summit talking together. I mean, Prime Minister Barak and Yasser Arafat are sitting together and trying to find the most suitable compromise for all of us in the region. So there is no unilateral attempt to impose a solution.

The recent attempt to realistically assess what could be done right now and push forward some sort of a solution which I think will neither be ideal for you nor for us — you know, many people in Israel want the ‘Greater Israel’. Many people in Palestine want the ‘Greater Palestine’. Neither side, neither side of extremism will win. I think the people that will win are the pragmatics, those who know that they have to make a compromise, and always a compromise is made together — not unilaterally.

MR. SUAREZ: Well, what kind of moves on the part of the Palestinians, what kind of signs from the Palestinians, would create the kind of security in Israel – among Israelis – that would make them more confident about giving the higher percentage of the ‘occupied’ territories rather than the lower percentage of the range in these lands that we are talking about?

MIN. TAMIR: Well, I think that the major issue is that – really – is of trust and security for the future of Israel. You know, we are also a country of refugees, a country of people coming with and bearing in mind a very harsh history. And I think the people of Israel want to enter an era where they can live in peace and they know that they have security for them and their children and their grandchildren after them – which is probably true also for the Palestinians.

Therefore, what we want now this summit to achieve is to find from the Palestinians exactly what are their plans, what is the kind of agreement that they are ready to sign on. We don’t want any more abstract declarations of this. We want to get down to business. I think this is why Prime Minister Barak came here. He wants here to know exactly whether we could sign a peace agreement in the foreseeable future. We don’t want to leave this conflict for the generations ahead.  

 Immigrant Absorption Minister Yuli Tamir- Interview on the Newshour with Jim Lehrer
 Immigrant Absorption Minister Yuli Tamir- Interview on the Newshour with Jim Lehrer
The Camp David Summit – July 2000