Yossi Beilin Interview (2003): Conversations with History; Institute of International Studies, UC Berkeley
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You [recently] used the term, "Two peoples, two narratives." It seems that behind your thinking is the idea that somehow there has to be a settlement that takes account of the two narratives, reconciles the people to each other to accepting both sides of the stories, in some way. Is that a fair statement of your view and what this peace process might ultimately result in?
I would say the following: the Geneva Accord doesn't refer to the narratives at all. We don't have the two narratives. We don't have a united narrative. We have just a solution. From that point of view, it is very logical and rational. It doesn't mean that we don't take into account the importance of the narratives, and it doesn't mean that we believe that it is easy to make from these two different narratives, one. But there is one thing which is, I believe, important: that people will know exactly what is the narrative of the other side. I'm sure that it might make them angry, irritate them, and assure them that the other side is lying, is telling the wrong story, or whatever, but it is important to understand. Some things which seem to you obvious and logical, seem to me almost crazy; but if I know it, at least I can take it into account. And if I don't want to irritate you, I will behave. I will say to myself, "Well, there's something wrong with you, but at least it is not my target to make you angry and to fight with you. I know that you have this story and this is what you believe. I know that my story is very different. Let's coexist."
It must take a lot of hope in your line of work, as somebody who's been so instrumental, so important in trying to make the peace process possible, and to revive it when it fails. Talk a little about that. How have you maintained that hope in an ultimate solution?
It won't surprise you that I have a positive view about myself. But I don't think that I should be the one to talk about it. For me, to be optimistic is actually my raison d'etre. I don't think that any political leader can lead if he or she is pessimistic. Just to have a gloomy vision about the future will not lead us anywhere. So I believe that it comes with the job. If you are a political leader, you must give hope to the people, and you must believe in it. You cannot deceive them.
I believe that we can have a better world. I believe that it is in our hands. We made many mistakes, but we should not give up on it. The fact that we failed once in the game doesn't mean that we don't have peace with Egypt, that we don't have peace with Jordan, that we cannot go to the Arab world, that I cannot go to Morocco next week. It is a different world than the one to which I was born. It is a better world in many aspects. It is a worse world in other aspects. The duty of people like myself is to emphasize the better part of it and to try and lead my people towards peace with the Palestinians, which is the core of the Arab-Israeli conflict. If we solve this heart of the conflict, I think that we can change the status of Israel in the world, and in the Arab world. This is, in my view, the sense of Zionism.
If you had to address a group of students and explain to them what you've learned as a person and as a political leader in this odyssey that you've been on to find a solution, what would you tell them?
I would tell them that when they think that something is a very solid floor, it might be a very thin layer of ice. That one should go on his or her toes. Because what we are doing is something which is very difficult. It is against nature. It is so easy to hate, and to punish each other, and to retaliate, and it is so difficult to understand the other and to have a reconciliation, that even if it seems as if it happened, it's still in the making. If this is the case, take it very seriously and understand that it is not necessarily a solid flow.
On that note, I want to thank you, Yossi, for joining us today, and I wish you the best of luck in your project.
Thank you very much, indeed.
Thank you. And thank you very much for joining us for this Conversation With History.
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