Sunday, 11 May 2008

The Palestinians Wanted Chaos, says Gidi Grinstein

Jeffrey Goldberg interviewed Gidi Grinstein for The Atlantic

"Gidi Grinstein is one of Israel's most interesting thinkers. The founder and president of the country's leading think tank, the Reut Institute, he is a former negotiator in the government of Ehud Barak. I sat down with him recently to talk about Israel's future. Here are some excerpts. Gidi blogs, by the way, at

I have a simple question: has Zionism worked?

Tremendously. I believe that we are one of the most successful national movements of the 20th century and moving forward into the 21st century.

Are the Palestinians one of the least successful national movements?

Probably. The secret of Zionism - the resilience of Zionism - is its ideological agility. Zionism has been driven by… ideas that are inconsistent with each other. So Zionism has been and remains a balancing act.

First I'd like to give you the concept. If there was rigidity in Zionism, there would be no way Zionism could survive the tremendous turmoil of the last sixty or seventy years. But these ideas are not in a hierarchy with each other - they are on a platform, they have equal footing and in every window of time there is a realignment of these ideas to meet the challenges of the day with new priorities.

What are these ideas? First there is the commitment to a special place on the face of this Earth - the land of Israel, the cradle of our civilization. The second big idea was about security for Jews. The third was about the well being of Jews. Not necessarily about wealth but more about economic independence, economic self determination. Then it was a whole nexus of ideas about humanism, liberalism, democracy. The Zionist movement since its inception has been democratic to a fault. That is still reflected and projected into the Knesset, which is a highly ineffective body.

It was about leadership among the family of nations - tikkun olam - repairing the world. It was about being light unto the nations, and the quest to create a model society. It has been about the Jewish character of the state of Israel - which means its language, its national day of rest, the Shabbat, its national holidays. This is the only place on the face of this earth where Jews experience being a majority. We assume full responsibility. This is a radically different existence than being a minority - as economically and politically powerful as a minority can be. Here we take care of sewage, we're responsible for security. (...)

Talk about the importance of settling the Palestinian problem.

I think that we have been very successful in containing the Palestinian issue. What I mean by containing is that day-to-day decisions of the vast majority of the Israel population are unaffected by our conflict with the Palestinians. This is precisely the opposite of what the Palestinians wanted to achieve. They wanted to bring chaos."

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