Wednesday, February 20, 2013

"Settlements are an expression of our connection to this land" - EoZ interview with Yossi Kuperwasser pt. 1

Yossi Kuperwasser, the Director of the Ministry of Strategic Affairs in the Prime Minister's Office, says that Israeli communities in Judea and Samaria "are an expression of our connection to this land."

In part one of an exclusive interview with EoZ, Kuperwasser discussed the purpose of his ministry and the importance of fighting attempts to delegitimize Israel.

He described his office as working on topics such as explaining Israel's position to politicians and pundits, and to try to get world leaders to pressure the Palestinian leadership to return to the negotiating table, to give only a couple of examples.

Kuperwasser stated that the top priorities of his ministry are the Iranian threat, the Palestinian issue, and to develop a "national security concept" that extends the idea of national security beyond the old paradigm of military defense to include social aspects of Israel's security.

When asked about how Israel's settlement policy fits in with strategic affairs, Kuperwasser defended them as "another expression of the Jewish people coming back to their ancestral homeland." He also defended them on security grounds, while admitting that not all of the communities help security.

On the other hand, Kuperwasser did admit that there are other people who claim the land and that Israel has shown time and time again a willingness to compromise for peace. Unfortunately, the Palestinian Arab side has not embraced the idea of two states for two peoples living side by side in peace.

I followed up by asking him how to answer the European claim that Israel has no right to continue building homes in the area. He answered that, firstly, the new homes are only being built on land that is already within defined Jewish communities. Secondly, there is a need for natural growth.

"Once we reach an agreement with the Palestinians...the settlements are one of the topics" to be discussed in a final status agreement, he noted, but until then there is no reason to stop building within them - only the legal ones.

Furthermore, during  years of negotiations with the Palestinian Arabs, the idea of a settlement freeze was never a requirement.

Beyond that, Kuperwasser asserts, what he wants to convince the Europeans and other Westerners is that without a Palestinian Arab culture of peace there is nothing to talk about. Peace is not being held up by settlements, but by the inability of Palestinian Arabs to accept the right of Jews to their own land and their continuous incitement against Israel.  This is what he wants the world to understand.