Eldad is behind “HATIKVAH” a new movement in Israel

By Atara Beck, Jewish Tribune

JERUSALEM-TORONTO – Many observers are looking at Knesset member Arieh Eldad as a symbol of hope for the beleaguered Jewish state that has had its share of corrupt leaders. In fact, the Israeli politician is heading a new national movement called Hatikvah, which means, literally, the hope. Eldad is a world-renowned medical doctor. He was surgeon general of the medical corps and the head of plastic surgery at Hadassah hospital in Jerusalem when the second intifada broke out in 2000.

“There were about 3,000 casualties in two years, mostly burns, among other injuries, from suicide bombers,” he said in a phone interview from Jerusalem. “I realized that preventive medicine is the most effective way to practice. Prevention is so much more efficient. In terror, preventive medicine doesn’t lie within the hospital walls, but in the field of politics. We can prevent this terrible wave of terror. And the only way is by preventing the creation of a Palestinian state west of the Jordan River – the famous two-state solution that is actually a suicidal plan.

“Every piece of land given away is interpreted as just another stage towards the goal of elimination of the state of Israel,” he continued. “We can see that from Gaza. ‘It will turn into Hamastan’ were the exact words that we, in the orange camp, used. [The colour orange was the symbol of the active protestors against the disengagement in Gaza.] So I decided to leave the ivory tower of academia.”

Is Hatikvah another new party?

“Not exactly,” he said. “It’s a new movement. The National Union in Israel, with which I can be a part of and have no ideological conflict, consists mostly of religious people.Knesset members, eight wear kippot. I’m the ninth. The nationalist camp (known as the right) is so much larger, but people will not vote for a religious party because they want them to reflect other issues as well. I really want to create a gate for the secular right to join this camp. Now they feel they must vote for Likud. Some voted for [Avigdor] Lieberman [head of Yisrael Beitenu], mistakenly taking him for being right wing, but he’s ready to establish a Palestinian state. He joined Kadima, and since the meeting at Sharm el-sheikh he’s part of those agreeing to transfer $350 million to the Palestinian Authority to strengthen [PA President Mahmoud] Abbas. Releasing 200 prisoners just as a gesture.

“I really feel we need a party in the nationalist camp that will represent the non-religious who were Likud before Likud went for the withdrawal from Gaza. A lot of them feel they can’t vote Likud now because they saw the destruction of the Gush Katif towns.”

Does Eldad believe the atmosphere is ripe for yet another party? Are there enough citizens fed up with what’s available now?

“Certainly, there are enough people,” he said. “What’s still to be seen is whether they’ll choose me as their leader. I think that during the last few elections, the majority voted for a leader, not a plan. They voted for whom they identified as a strong leader. The majority who voted for Sharon initially wasn’t for the disengagement. Although he was a strong leader, he took them to places where they didn’t want to go.”

Should people in the Diaspora do anything to help?

“Various levels of activity would be welcome from North America,” Eldad answered.

“First, there can be a level of activity in the US to try to influence the administration. Second, financial support. Foreign citizens can’t contribute to a party, but they can support a campaign firmly against a Palestinian state. People can contribute money to strengthen those positions. They can’t advocate for a party, but they can advocate for the rejection of an independent Palestinian state. That rules out Likud, among others.

“There’s, for example, American Friends for a Strong Israel (AFSI), Professors for a Strong Israel and others. Support for such a campaign could be promoted in Israeli papers, buying time on television and radio, billboards, etc.”

What can be done about the danger of post-Zionism?

“We can do very little about the post-Zionists,” he said. “But they’re a very, very thin layer of Israeli society and they receive proportionally more publicity in media. The majority of the people of Israel are Zionists – not post- Zionists, not anti-Zionists, not at all. They need a strong voice. Every week I publish an article in Ma’ariv [Israeli daily] and people stop me to thank me. The louder we can talk to the people, the more they’ll realize they’re in the majority. Only a small percentage of the population reads my article, but we can buy louder space – in colour – to attract attention. These things work. People aren’t buying Coca Cola only because it tastes good. It’s well advertised.”

Don’t most people still believe in the theory of two states, Israel and Palestine?

“A two-state solution is no longer a valid option. I think that more and more people are realizing that. Land for peace was very popular before the 2005 disengagement and the war in Lebanon. Now less than 20 per cent of Israelis – and that includes 20 per cent Arabs among them – support any further withdrawal. They don’t trust the Arab leaders anymore. That’s left only for the politicians to pretend they have a plan, a hope. They’re not courageous enough to say they have nothing. So they’re repeating the same slogans.

“I think Bush needs the old plan because he has nothing else. He needs a photo op at Sharm-el Sheikh. I don’t see any real plans on the horizon. But politicians who say there are no plans on the horizon won’t be elected in the US and maybe not in Israel either. So they’re trapped into repeating the same old plans, even though they know [PA leader] Abu Mazen is irrelevant. Even if he were strong, one would have to examine very carefully what he demands as a final settlement, which would practically mean the elimination of Israel as a Jewish state. He’s against terrorism only because he sees it doesn’t do them any good. But he wants all of Palestine, just like Hamas.”

What about the threat from Iran?

“Iran is in a race to produce nuclear arms, not only to eliminate Israel, but towards the production of 40-50 nuclear bombs. Within two to three years it will have enough uranium to produce 50 bombs.

“They’re working on a ballistic missile plan. These missiles already cover all of Israel and parts of Europe, but they want a longer range to retaliate against any attack that would punish them for attacking Israel. They won’t be stopped by any political or financial pressure. Israel’s policy is a tragic mistake. When they say it’s not an Israeli problem but the entire world’s, it’s a terrible mistake.

If it’s everybody’s problem, it’s no one’s problem. If the American president would want to attack Iran, he can’t get approval, because of the mess in Iraq. “But Israel should say that Iran is precisely Israel’s problem and before Iran strikes any European country, it will strike Israel. We can’t afford to let this happen. We have to make it clear to the whole world that we have to strike first.

And if we figure out that our conventional plan isn’t enough, we’ll have to use any means we can. The idea is to contain the conflict within the framework of a conventional conflict before they have the nuclear power, which could result in a nuclear world war. The world would be much better off if Israel finishes the conflict with conventional weapons.”

July 4, 2007 | 5 Comments »

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