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20 years after the Oslo Accords: Being an Israeli ambassador to Norway

20 years after the Oslo Accords, we meet Israel's ambassador, Raphael Schutz, to a conversation about the criticism Israel is exposed to in Norway. What does the wall, the country's militarism and its enmity mean? And will the hatred between Jews and Palestinians ever find a future solution?

The reason for this interview was six fairly ongoing emails from the Israeli embassy to end the subscription to Ny Tid and the remaining amount was refunded. This led me to assume that the embassy did not want to read the criticism of Israel from our columns. I posted a comment about this on Facebook, with a hint of the totalitarian in completely ignoring criticism. It turned out that the embassy only canceled all paper subscriptions to receive news summaries electronically via other sources. The attention this created in social media and newspapers – including several demands for an unreserved apology – actually led to Ny Tid being invited to do an interview with the ambassador.

That is why we are sitting here with Ambassador Raphael Schutz – while the video camera is rolling (see www.nytid.no). I start the conversation with an apology for the misunderstanding, which is immediately accepted. So who is Schutz, and why is a conversation with him important? Through almost 20 years of criticism – in Morgenbladet, Le Monde diplomatique, and now Ny Tid – of Israel's conduct in the Palestinian territories, it is after all the first time such an inquiry has come from the embassy, ​​and that the criticism is answered and can be discussed. Schutz has been Ambassador to Israel in Norway for exactly one year. He says the following about the criticism in the Norwegian media: «Criticism is fine. Criticism is fair – it is part of human nature. What bothers me is when it extends beyond a critical thinking. When it becomes a systematic campaign aimed at delegitimizing Israel's existence as a state or as the homeland of the Jewish people. Here I see a power of definition, with strong financial and ideological supporters. " The problem is, according to Schutz, when this slips into a political trend or cult rather than criticism. "If you harass Israel today, it will have no consequences. It has become something that belongs to the radical left. Let me take our episode as an example: It was natural to think that when we canceled our subscription, it was because we are totalitarian – because we are not willing to listen to criticism. Another example is Oslo Dokumentarkino, which has decided to boycott Israel. Why? I'm not saying we do not deserve criticism – we do. If you read the Israeli media, I think you will see that we ourselves are our worst critics. But from there to the hateful attitudes we see in Norway, there is an abyss, "says Schutz.

I tell Schutz that in recent years I have traveled around Israel, and video interviewed about twenty Palestinians and Jews about the conflict between Israel and Palestine, as well as a number of Norwegian diplomats traveling in the area. I have also read Jewish philosophers such as Hannah Arendt and Emmanuel Levinas. I do not belong to a dogmatic left, but I have an open, culturally radical point of view that most of all springs from a philosophical background. Schutz, for his part, has a background as a diplomat, and has been for the past 30 years, including in a number of Spanish-speaking countries such as Colombia and Spain, after starting his career in Chile. Before coming to Norway, he headed the entire European department in Israel's Foreign Ministry. He has a long career and a solid background for his own opinions. Still – there must be something more behind his commitment, I think.

The vision was that Gaza could become a Hong Kong Middle East.

"The most important element is that I was born in Israel in 1957, when the state was nine years old," says Schutz. "My parents were refugees from Germany. They came to the Palestinian Territory when they were under British rule in the 1930s with my grandparents. The feeling of being a refugee and of having to fight for fundamental rights – a separate state – is what mainly defines me. I am an Israeli who does not take Israel's existence for granted. I am also one who believes that history has shown us that Jews are not only entitled to live in Israel – but also that they should have a full mandate to live in a sovereign state. Because we have seen what happens when we do not have it, "he says. "This is probably me in a nutshell. I studied history and political science at Bar-Ilan University in Israel – actually a religious university with a majority of non-religious students. While I am Israeli, I am not a practicing Jew. But nationally, I define myself 100 percent as a Jew, because Judaism is not just about religion. "
Clip0001.01_10_03_05.Still004The walls of Israel. Schutz appeared on NRK this spring when filming My Homeland was shown under a longer version of Urix. A propaganda film, Schutz says: “I came up with a longer analysis that was not shown in full on NRK, perhaps due to time constraints. My Homeland was not a critical film, but a propaganda film with a defined political message that matches the Norwegian media. The film is divided into seven to eight interviewees, with all but one telling the story from the Palestinian side. The film represents the radical left, ”says Schutz. "In the film, an elderly lady from one of the Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon says she wants to return to Palestine. But no one asks her why. No one is talking about Germans who could return to Poland, or about Indians who want to return to Pakistan. The problem is that few Palestinians want to return. Today we have Americans, Englishmen and others who have Palestinian refugee backgrounds – and rights as the country's other population. Whether it is a place where Palestinians are treated as second-class citizens is in the Arab countries. "

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I remind Schutz that the Israeli lady interviewed in the documentary actually expresses that she hates the walls that exist in Israel – based on her background from the Holocaust confinement. "Of course," says Schutz. "The wall, or separation barrier, between Israel and Palestine has not always existed. We did not set it up because we suddenly had an urge to separate ourselves from the Palestinians. The wall was set up because we witnessed a wave of suicide attacks in 2001-2002, culminating in March when a total of 100 Israelis were killed by suicide bombers in every major city in Israel. The politicians then decided wall, which practically has saved the lives of thousands of Israelis. "

Schutz mentions similar "separation walls" in the United States, Spain and South Africa. He believes the difference is that the wall in Israel saves the lives of its inhabitants. "The term 'the apartheid wall', as a wall for ethnic cleansing, has no foundation in reality. I pray for the day when the conflict is over, that we can have a Palestinian state and an Israeli state, and return to an open border as we had until 2002. " I still do not drop the topic. The fact that the Palestinians are trapped in the West Bank and Gaza gives them few economic opportunities, and leads to unemployment and extreme poverty. Gaza is besieged by a blockade – by many called 'the world's largest prison'. "If, on the one hand, you look at the right to work in Israel as a Palestinian, and on the other hand to save lives – then I think saving lives weighs heavier," is the answer. "Israel has not only the right but the duty to save the lives of its people. We actually left Gaza ten years ago and gave the Palestinians a golden opportunity to live independent lives. Everything was open. No blockade. The vision was that Gaza could become a Middle Eastern Hong Kong. But what did they do? First, they destroyed all the greenhouses we left behind to improve agriculture. Second, Hamas came on the scene, with its ideology of fighting Israel all the time. One of the biggest problems in Palestinian circles is that it is more important to destroy Israel than to build its own state. Hatred and negative attitudes outweigh the positive ones. Hamas is recruiting 13-year-old boys to summer camps with weapons, where they are learning to hate. We see how they treat homosexuals and women in line with the strict Islamist ideology. "

I ask secular Schutz whether he wants to comment on the extreme orthodox attitude toward women in Israel, the way the Torah readers ask women to sit behind in buses, or refer women not to walk on the same sidewalk as men. "I agree that we have our share of fundamentalists too, but in Israel these are minorities," the ambassador replies. “Israel is pure heaven for LGBT people. Even in Jerusalem, you see people living openly as gays. ”

Clip0001.02_16_04_10.Still002Israel's militarism. A very different and highly criticized side of Israel is the militaristic state. Israel has a highly developed technology, and indoctrinates growing generations in military life where both young women and men have years of military service, as well as one month rehearsal exercise for each of the next twenty-five years. Schutz himself served his compulsory service between 1975-78. "These were quiet years, I spent most of my time in Sinai – which was later returned to Egypt after Camp David," he says. "It's important to understand that we're not Sparta, we're not militarists per se. We need a strong army, otherwise we would not have been here anymore. We are not in Europe. Forces around us do not accept our right to be here, they are not used to discussing this in an intellectual way. They communicate with bombs, to cut off people's heads. You may call us paranoid, but I do not agree. What Israel hears from Europe is that it is our own fault, that the problem is the settlements and such. No one is asking for the Israeli perspective – about what we fear and what we are afraid of. The environment we live in doesn't exist in their consciousness. "

Yes, many of us from the outside – including Jewish rabbis – experience that Jews and Palestinians will never find a solution to peace, as hatred or power is too dominant for any solution at all. I therefore challenge Schutz on why they could not accept an international force, with independent control and peace administered from outside – for example, a UN peacekeeping force deployed in Israel-Palestine. "So far, the UN has no mandate to impose a solution on anyone," he said. "As Israelis, we do not trust others enough to hand over responsibility for our security to anyone from the outside. Syria and the Golan Heights are a good example of this. The moment Syria began to boil, when militias such as ISIS and al-Qaeda intervened, the UN ran away. So we are careful to believe that someone outside can protect us. "

Now, Schutz's own prime minister is not helping to calm down the trifles, either. In Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu is being criticized for his Iran propaganda, spreading fears about possible nuclear weapons in order to strengthen his position. Here indeed the United States, unlike Israel chosen to enter a partnership with Iran. "Then we disagree with the United States, which is very justified," the ambassador says. "The United States is a country far away from Iran, we are far closer. Iranian Ali Khamenei says on TV that Israel should be destroyed, so it's no wonder we have a different perspective. ” When it comes to attacking others, I remind Schutz of Israel's own terrorists, both the Irgun and Stern gangs of the 1940s, who killed innocent civilians. These were behind the bombing of the King David Hotel and the murder of the Swedish peace negotiator Folke Bernadotte (see article page 6). Massacres were carried out against Palestinian villages, and terrorist acts were carried out by Jews. Schutz believes that this does not say anything about Israel as such: “All nations have terrorist chapters in the past. But it is a question of how large and comprehensive the terrorist factions have been. Yes, there have been Jewish terrorist factions in the struggle for independence. "

Oslo Accords. Norway once had an important role when the Oslo agreement was drafted – an attempt to reach a peace agreement with outside assistance. The agreement has been criticized under and to have been asymmetrical, where one party was too powerful – without genuine political dialogue – and as such no free negotiation whatsoever.

What is Schutz thinking about the deal now, 20 years after it was negotiated in 1993-95? The Israeli settlers tripled in retrospect up to 600 – the peace agreement can be seen as an excuse for extended occupation. Schutz replies: "Regarding your first remark about dialogue: It depends on who your neighbor is. Shoot your neighbor on you, you would probably change my mind. We need a military force, if not we will cease. This is something I expect people in Norway to understand. In 000, I was a big supporter of the Oslo agreement. I still believe that two states for two people is the best solution, which was the logic agreement was built upon. But you must understand that 'Oslo' in Israel's collective memory is associated with suicide attacks, with buses exploding in Israeli cities. This happened right after the agreement was signed. So you can't say that the Oslo agreement was a precursor to expanded settlements. It wasn't. Oslo was a very courageous attempt to end the conflict. The fact that we have given up areas to Jordan and Egypt says something about how far we go to make peace. Having entered into these agreements, we have just achieved peace. The agreement with Palestine was different in the sense that the terror did not end even if the agreement was signed. "

Yet – with what purpose one needs to settle in areas populated by Palestinians, I ask Schutz. "In Israel there are also people who believe that the settlement was a mistake," he says. "However, many believe they have the right to be there, and it is a historical fact that the Palestinian territories never belonged to a Palestinian state in the past. But more importantly, I regard it as a big lie that the settlements are an obstacle to peace. They are not. When we made peace with Egypt, we evacuated the settlements. We have also done that in Gaza. Anyone who claims that settlements are the root of the conflict is wrong. There was no peace with the Arab states until we dominated the areas. ”

I consider it a great lie that settlement is an obstacle to peace.

What about East Jerusalem, where Palestinians are still losing housing? “No one loses property for no reason. If an Israeli court finds evidence that this was Palestinian, the Palestinian may retain the property. Look at Susia, who was recently mentioned in the media. Susia did not exist before. 20 years ago there was no Palestinian presence there, only visits by nomads from time to time. They built illegally, arguing that they have owned the area for generations. This is part of a propaganda machine. "

The totalitarian. I once asked Israel's former prime minister, Ehud Barak, about the Camp David agreement, explaining that they were working on proposals to build a tunnel or separate highway between the West Bank and Gaza. They considered allowing the Palestinians to have their own independent state and economy, their own airport and free ports. I ask Schutz to comment on any future solutions. "Many have historically talked about the conflict between Israel and Palestine which all conflict mother, claiming that the Middle East would have been different if it ceased. I have always thought this was a hesitation, ”says Schutz. “The Middle East is struggling with major problems that have nothing to do with the Palestine conflict. With all the problems we have today, I would argue that living in Palestine is easier than in many other Arab countries. ” He continues: "Regarding your interview with Barak – I couldn't agree more. I agree that it is in Israel's best interest to have a viable Palestinian state with a viable economy. One could build a tunnel from the West Bank to Gaza, or give free passage. I do not care. What I care about is Israel's security. "

I choose to ask the ambassador about the totalitarian, as the Jewish political thinker Hannah Arendt put it in her books. Arendt analyzes control regimes that are undemocratic based on lies, fears, military technology and terrorism, where the totalitarian seems indirect and less visible than tyrannical regimes. They nurture ideology and hatred toward others. "Hannah Arendt's philosophy is popular, but also criticized. Do not make her an icon or take her into the critical debate. She is not above it. She spoke at a time when the challenges we see today did not exist. She did not experience a reality where airplanes crashed into skyscrapers, ”says Schutz. "It is not hatred or psychology that creates our negative atmosphere. It is primarily the real realities. The Middle East is real. More than a quarter of a million have died in Syria, we have Nigeria, Libya, Yemen – all the wars and conflicts are a reality. They are not staged from the right to create fear. You ask me at the same time if this is being abused by politicians – yes, it may be. But first came the reality. "

I remind Schutz that protests against the Syrian Assad regime started with peaceful demonstrations, such as in the city of Homs, where people sang and danced, before the regime brutally suppressed them. “If you are a peaceful demonstrator and get shot at, you obviously defend yourself with weapons. At the same time, you see that many people take up arms without being attacked. Many people talked about September 11 as the punishment the United States received because of their global politics and dominance. I think this is tough, ”says the ambassador. “Europe rose from the ashes after World War II and managed to build the EU, which three years ago received the Nobel Peace Prize. People in Europe understood that the only way to build something was through collaboration and constructivity. The Arab world is not like that. They have no civil society, and no civil rights. The basic foundation of a society does not exist. The clearest indication of this is the way they treat women. "

This may be reminiscent of the discussion with the hen and the egg – what came first or who started. Similar to how I described for his colleague Barak: If you push a man long enough in the mud with the boot hard on the other's head, it may be that the other not to lose your breath eventually turn on itself. Is it correct to say that he is a terrorist? Barak mumbled that Norwegians once had their Vikings. Schutz comments: "It explains something, but not everything. Ideology also plays an important role. Al-Qaeda sees progress and welfare in the West, while living up to a medieval standard. Then they blame the colonial era and attack the West. "

The future. But what about the future? Will they be able to resolve the conflict on their own at all? Will Norway ever again be able to play a role, as we still lead the AHLC, the financially necessary donor group for Palestine? When former Foreign Minister Espen Barth Eide was interviewed by the undersigned at the King David Hotel in Jerusalem, he acknowledged that the closure of the support was considered, as only the occupation was maintained, as one was willing to pay for it. And Israeli Yossi Beilin, an initiator of the Oslo Accords, once told me in Tel Aviv that the Palestinians' strongest weapon was precisely "giving back the key" – that is, putting down the Palestinian authorities that originated with the Oslo Accord, and rightly so. simply let Israel take full responsibility for the occupation rather than being the current Quisling government. I ask Schutz to comment on what would happen if the donor country group and Palestine ceased cooperation with Israel:

"Well," he replies, "I find it difficult to answer what Israel wants to do. I do not think this will happen, it is a kind of empty talk. I do not see how the Palestinians would want to give up the Oslo agreement and the benefits they have received from it. In principle, we are not interested in dominating the Palestinians. They shall have the same rights and the same duties. But if we were to unilaterally end the so-called occupation of the West Bank tomorrow, we are doomed to experience the same thing as when we left Gaza: to be attacked. Make no mistake, it's going to happen. " In Gaza, pollution is rising, as is child mortality. Trapped in their poverty, it is impossible for them to grow or manage on their own. "I think we should be as flexible and accommodating as possible in terms of Palestinian living standards and economy," Schutz said. "Before, there was an airport in the West Bank, and Gaza had a free coast from the Gaza port. But then the Palestinians began to use this to smuggle weapons. Can we create a situation where this does not happen, I am for it. You have to be two to dance the tango. " Around the world, a number of Jews are saddened and despairing because the militaristic solution destroys and creates a bad reputation for their Jewish religion and culture. "I think most Jews in the world are very happy for Israel, and for the years of independence," Schutz said. "The exception is anti-Zionist Jews, who are part of the left's propaganda – with the likes of Noam Chomsky, the fool Max Blumenthal and the Israeli journalist Gideon Levi. The truth is that in Israel hundreds of journalists think differently than Levi, but he and the others mentioned are all you in Norway see. This makes you brainwashed, "says Schutz. "It is clear that millions of Jews worldwide are saddened by the situation in Israel. But I think there are far more who see how successful Israel is economically and culturally, and who are happy about all the positive things about Israel that no one talks about. As long as the international community and the extreme political left do not address both sides – and Israel's justified fears – and only hear this negative discussion, a solution will be far in the future. "

Here in Ny Tid, we regularly print Schutz's compatriot Uri Avnery's lyrics. "He is a great person, born in 1923 in Germany. It's nice that he's still writing. He has a unique perspective, he was involved in the war in 1948, "says Schutz.

State solution? Finally, I move on to the idea of ​​a binational one-state solution, where two nations should be able to live together – considered by many as the only way forward. When will Israel give every citizen one vote, so that the rights are equal? "Show me an example of how it has worked," answered the ambassador. “In South Africa, you have South Africans. In Belgium you have Flanders and Wallonians. It is obvious that it is not working. After Tito's fall in Yugoslavia, they cut one another's throats before developing their own states. Kofi Annan, as UN Secretary-General, understood that reunification of people was the basis of war, and left it out. This also applies in Israel. The world understood that the Jews deserved to be a majority in a state after World War II. Now they want to take the state away from us and distribute it equally to the Palestinians. But the demographics are slowly moving towards us. "

In a one-state solution, the far wealthier Jews would have a financial superiority. Couldn't that be enough regulation, I finally ask. How about looking ten years ahead? "Economic superiority does not give a democratic state. I want a country with 80 percent Jews, ”Schutz replies. “A state where everyone has equal civil rights. Where a non-Jew can become president or hold other positions. This is the vision of a democratic and Jewish country, with no contradiction between one another. ” He continues: “We have been very disappointed in the last 20 years. We were sure that the Oslo agreement was going to be good and lead to security. I can not say anything about the next ten years. At the same time, pessimism is a luxury we cannot afford. We have to do everything, but there is another player who must also take responsibility. "

On the way out the door, I ask if they will let Mads Gilbert into Gaza again. Gilbert does not understand international law, the ambassador believes: "He should stick to his profession as a doctor." Whether he wants to let in again, however, is something they are constantly considering, he says. The conversation is over. I see that both Jews and Palestinians have their many arguments and feelings – but one cannot help but be despaired over these two nations. Probably they will never find any solution without a powerful international community takes responsibility, and almost puts the area under political administration.

Truls Liehttp: /www.moderntimes.review/truls-lie
Editor-in-chief in MODERN TIMES. See previous articles by Lie i Le Monde diplomatique (2003–2013) and Morgenbladet (1993-2003) See also part video work by Lie here.

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