Tel Aviv Mayor Huldai on Terrorism and Occupation

Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai was interviewed today by IDF Radio, following yesterday’s shooting attack in Tel Aviv. Huldai’s words, albeit not the most eloquent, were unusual in the environment of inflammatory rhetoric that typically characterizes Israeli politicians’ reactions to terrorism. Here are selected quotes, translated into English:

“This is the most central question that we face, the question that the state of Israel and the Israeli society has been facing throughout the years: Is this a matter of fate, are we destined (to live with terrorism)? Are there things that we can do to temper and minimize the motivations of enmity between the two peoples? The leader of Egypt, where there was immense enmity, understood, that it was imperative to arrive at a certain political settlement to reduce these motivations and to channel the energies for the benefit of other issues.”

“We, as a state, may be the only country in the world in which another people is under our occupation without civil rights. Throughout the years, our leaders are saying that this territory is held as a collateral asset to be leveraged for a certain agreement with the other side, with whoever will talk. The problem is that when there is no terrorism, there is no talking, and when there is talking, we say ‘no terrorism.’ And we don’t have the courage to take a step toward an attempt to make some kind of an agreement. That is the real question. Israeli society is facing a very big dilemma, and Tel-Aviv-Jaffa is perhaps facing the greatest dilemma.”

“The tragedy is that if I don’t succeed in running a sane life (in Tel Aviv), how is it going to impact the people in Israel in order for them to understand that we cannot continue with the current situation.”

“On the one hand, for the past 49 years we have had an occupation, in which I participated. I fought in the six-day war, I saw the ‘border ahead’ signs in Latroun. I am familiar with the reality and I know that courageous leaders must strive to do things and not just to talk. Look at the statements that are being published.”

“In today’s reality, we can mourn and hurt like we do today, in an extraordinary way, but the fact is that (even) this pain that we are suffering does not lead us to change our understanding of what it is that we should do.”

“A change will come only if we show our neighbors that we have sincere intentions to return to the reality that Herzl had promised us: The state of the Jews – perhaps one smaller in size, but with a solid Jewish majority. To separate from the reality in which we (rule over) people who do not have civil rights, unlike the citizens of the state of Israel. It is impossible to continue having people in a reality in which you are occupying them, while thinking that they will reach a conclusion that everything is fine and that life can continue as is.”

“To my regret, and I am saying it sadly, in a democracy it is difficult to convince people through the brain. Karl Marx said that social existence determines people’s consciousness – and it seems that the social existence has to be changed, for the worse, in order for the consciousness to change. This is exactly what happened to us with Egypt. The leaders of Egypt came to us and said: we want to reach a settlement. And we said no. until a leader named (Anwar) Sadat came and said, I will wage war to change their consciousness. And he waged a horrible war, and we lost 3,300 men in a terrible war in which I took part as well. But this war was what created the change in consciousness. In other words, through this war he created a change in consciousness, which led to the political developments that moved us toward peace. We are not there yet. I am saying that sadly, because this city, Tel-Aviv-Jaffa, projects that ‘everything is fine.’ It’s flourishing.”