Monday, December 24, 2007

Meeting with the Israeli Government Press Office

The only time available for the Israeli Government representatives to meet with our Australian delegation was Sunday morning, which I found extraordinary. However, we agreed to meet Mr Daniel Seaman, the Director of the Government Press Office (GPO), at Beit Agron, in West Jerusalem, at 11.30 am.

Mr Seaman met us in the library of the Journalists' Association. He talked about the context of the recent Annapolis peace talks, the failings of the Israeli educational system, the wisdom of a two-state solution, the need to oppose extremists in both Israel and Palestine, and many more political and social issues relating to the ongoing conflict.

Some quotes:

"Hoping for a peace agreement by the end of 2008 is upping the anti too much."

"The one-state solution is 'Orwellian-speak' and any resolution to the situation will require tangible concessions to Israel."

"The Arab-Israeli conflict is a golem created by those who wish for it."

"If the Arab world confirms that Iran has nuclear weapons, there will be a whole new dance [in the region]"

"In many places, thugs have taken over the Palestinian National Authority."

"The Separation Wall is a non-violent means of reducing Palestinian terrorism. It alows Israel to restrain itself against aggressors. It is a matter of our lives compared to their convenience."

"The one right that is elementary is the right to self-determination. All other rights are negotiable."

"There are indications that Israel and Syria are in secret negotiations. Syria is an essential party in any peace agreement because it can appear to make Israel weak if sabre-rattling becomes a reality."

"Israel is the Jewish state, just as Arab countries are Muslim states, and Italy, the USA and the UK are Christian states."

"Palestinian Israeli citizens are treated far better than minorities in other 'troubled' nationa are treated ... Our Supreme Court tries to correct problems, but it is hard to do so in the situation we face."
"On the fact of hundreds of roadblocks inside the West Bank: "Every week there are children stopped, carrying explosives."

"The Security Barrier is permanent, but the Supreme Court can determine its final location."

"Cynicism is not in my job description, but one has to have it in order to be optimistic."

"What we have all been through in the last seven years - none of us wants to go through that in the future."

On one-state versus two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict see also an excellent paper by Marian Kromkowski at

1. Mr Daniel Seaman addresses the Australian delegation at Beit Agron.
2. The delegation enjoys lunch at the Spaghettim Restaurant adjacent to Beit Agron (an experience I recommend, though not 'local' cuisine).

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