One thing that can be said of Israel is that there is no shortage of perspectives. Last week, our class had the opportunity to meet with members of the Knesset from across the spectrum. MK Taleb Abu Arar, a member of the Joint List, had some pretty extremist views. Among those that stood out to me were: Jews have no ties to the Temple Mount, Jews didn't start coming to Israel until 1917, and his blatant objection that Palestinian terrorism exists. I was shocked the MK felt no shame in making these bold statements. Did he truly believe what he was saying? Or does he know that he is factually inaccurate but he doesn't care about truth because it hurts his agenda? Can peace be achieved with this mentality? Irrespective of his views, this meeting was my favorite of the entire week. I appreciate him taking time from his schedule to meet with us. And I agree with him that more Arab-Israelis should vote so that their voice can be heard and they can be better represented in the Israeli government.
We also heard from Jeremy Man, who is apart of the Jewish Home Faction and an advisor to the Deputy Defense Minister. Jeremy is on the opposite spectrum of MK Arar. The Jewish Home opposes a two-state solution because they do not think it will bring peace to neither the Israelis or the Palestinians. In Jeremy's reasoning, he explained that each time Israel vacated land, they ended up on a worse strategic position and the security situation deteriorated. And in just one example, it is true that after Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005, rocket attacks increased exponentially. And if not for Israel's expertise in military technology with the Iron Dome system, many innocent citizens would have been murdered from these rockets. But is the answer to just throw up your hands and give up? Jeremey thinks the answer is to annex Area C, and worry about A and B later. Gaza, he says, is a whole separate issue.
MK Dr. Anat Berko met with us as a Representstive of the Likud party, which is the current party in power here in Israel. Berko had many interesting points but the one that stood out to me most was this quote: "They [the Palestinians] don't want to be inside us, they want to be instead of us." This is a common sentiment among the Likud party; that the current Palestinian leadership is not a partner for peace. And while one can argue that the current leadership in the PA is doing more harm to their people than good, the reality is that the Israeli government must still negotiate with them because they simply have no other option. In an effort to assuage the longing for sovereignty among the Palestinian people, Israel will have to extend the olive branch yet again to advance peace. Tactically, strategically and with good will. As was stated in Israel's Declaration of Independence almost 70 years ago, "We extend our hand to all neighbouring states and their peoples in an offer of peace and good neighbourliness, and appeal to them to establish bonds of cooperation and mutual help with the sovereign Jewish people settled in its own land. The State of Israel is prepared to do its share in a common effort for the advancement of the entire Middle East."
One of the biggest take aways for me from the Knesset meetings this week is the fact that all these views *are* represented in the Knesset and members are able to openly criticize government policy, which just reinforces the reality that Israel is a democratic state. Whether you disagree with a specific policy does not negate the democratic nature of the state of Israel, which offers citizens freedom of speech, religion, expression and elections.
Signing off for the last time. Israel, it's been great. See you next time✌🏼