Recently, MK Dov Lipman gave an interview with Arutz Sheva after a “peace talk meeting” sponsored by the Geneva Initiative. He said that some of the Arabs he had spoken to who had themselves served time in Israeli jails. They said that they had had conversations with their jailers and grew to better understand the Israeli side. “I am not saying that they turned into saints, but something happened to them.” MK Lipman agreed to answer further questions about his thoughts for the Five Towns Jewish Times with Rabbi Yair Hoffman.
YH: The first question is: Did the interview you gave Arutz Sheva truly reflect your thinking here that you think most of the prisoners did change significantly by their incarceration? Do you really think that there is a sort of charata here? What percentage roughly do you think are really changed? Most of us believe, au contraire, that they become more entrenched in their thinking and justify even further what they have done. This is particularly the case when they are given a hero’s welcome..
DL: I never said most of the prisoners change I said there are prisoners who change. It is not a question of charata – they now understand our side better and truly seek peace. What people who have not sat with former prisoners believe is irrelevant to me. I also thought so until I met them and spent three days with them. People who have not met them can think what they want but it is based on speculation and not based on facts on the ground.
YH:Speaking with people who have innocent blood on their hands and are not remorseful about it but profess a desire for genuine peace – shouldn’t this be a non-starter? The current Germany was built by dealing with non-Nazis such as Adenauer and the like – not non-repentant Nazis.. If you are not remorseful about the idea of killing innocents, how can we be partners in peace? Isn’t it just, at best, a temporary solution – and, therefore not in Israel’s best interests?
DL:It is in Israel’s best interest to seek an end to this conflict. Right now there are a few million people who are living under our control who do not have full rights. We have to either give them their full rights which I believe is a threat to Israel as a Jewish state or we must seek a solution. Of course, I would not agree to a solution which I believed put us in danger. But if there is someone on the other side who is willing to talk to me and explore solutions, I am willing to talk to them. In that context I met with a group of Palestinian leaders and in those meetings I met former prisoners who absolutely changed their perspective and ideology while in prison. They learned about our history for the first time in their lives and spent hours talking with their Israeli guards. They now sincerely seek a peace agreement. Is this reflective of all prisoners? No. Is this the attitude of all Palestinian leaders? No. I was answering questions about the people who I spent three days with and got to know real well. I look forward to continuing the dialogue with them.
YH: Weren’t they only willing to talk because we agreed to a release of hundreds of “Charles Mansons?” If they really were interested in talking wouldn’t they have done so before this release? Also, is it at all possible that you are misreading their intentions? Often people involved in negotiations hear one thing and when they speak to their brethren speak quite differently. You say, “who absolutely changed their perspective and ideology.” But did they really? Did they publicly write this anywhere – or only in the 3 days that they had spent with you?
DL: We are never going to agree with the Palestinians and they are never going to agree with us. They view these murderers as their soldiers. They view us as people who kicked them off their land. The question is, do they want to come to a peace agreement. Do they view it as worthwhile to not fight to drive us out of Israel but to settle for something less. These specific Palestinians who I met with have the latter perspective. No, I was not fooled. We spent three days together and talked in a very personal manner. YH: You say that they have the latter perspective – to settle for something less. However, you do agree at this point that many of them, if not the majority of them, will not settle for something less – do you not? If that’s the case, the others will continue the Charles Mansonesque behaviors and will not be reined in by these “moderates.” Isn’t this “selling the farm” with nothing to show for it? What is the endgame here?
DL: We will not make a deal if we feel it will endanger Israel. The entire purpose of even exploring it is to save Israel.
YH: Your feelings are understood. It is just from a strategy perspective it is hard to understand how such an agreement will work, given the fact that the moderates are not the only voices. In other words, there is good reason to question how even theoretically it could work. It may be more likely, with the numerous voices that will continue to call for the destruction of Israel and would only view any arrangement as a stop-gap temporary measure, that we will have negotiated another “Munich Pact.” Thank you so much for your time and for speaking with us. Rabbi Hoffman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org