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Barnes and... A Conversation with Gila Svirsky

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Gila Svirsky is an Israeli writer and peace activist who co-founded the Coalition of Women for Peace, which brings together nine Israeli women's peace organizations to raise the visibility and volume of the feminist peace movement in Israel. Svirsky has been an activist with Women in Black, a womens anti-war movement, since its inception in 1988 and is currently chair of B'Tselem, the Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories. She has also written extensively on current events in the Middle East, giving special attention to the grassroots feminist peace movement in Israel and Palestine.

TRANSCRIPT

HELLO AGAIN, EVERYONE. THANKS VERY MUCH FOR JOINING US. WE ARE COMING TO YOU FROM THE LIBRARY OF THE CLINTON SCHOOL OF PUBLIC SERVICE IN LITTLE ROCK. AND OUR GUEST IS GILA SVIRSKY. THANK YOU VERY MUCH FOR THIS     TIME.

I'M VERY HAPPY TO BE HERE. THANKS FOR INVITING ME.

AS A VERY YOUNG WOMAN, YOU LEFT YOUR HOME IN SUBURBAN NEW JERSEY AND WENT TO ISRAEL. AND IN THE TIME SINCE YOU HAVE BEEN BACK AND FORTH AND YOU MAINTAIN DUAL CITIZENSHIP, U.S. AND ISRAELI. AND YOU ARE A FOUNDER OF WOMEN IN BLACK AND YOUR SOLE MISSION IS TO STOP THE VIOLENCE, PRIMARILY IN THE -- PRIMARILY BETWEEN ISRAEL AND THE PALESTINIANS AND FIND A PEACEFUL RESOLUTION.

THAT'S CORRECT.

TO THAT CRISIS.

MM-HMM.

AND YOU HAVE WRITTEN. YOU HAVE LECTURED. YOU HAVE TRAVELED EXTENSIVELY, AND YOU REPAIN OPTIMISTIC AGAINST THE -- IN THE FACE OF SO MUCH DEATH.

YES. I AM OPTIMISTIC. OF COURSE, BECAUSE THERE'S GOING TO BE PEACE IN OUR LIFETIMES, AND IT'S GOING TO HAPPEN EVEN WITHIN THE NEXT FEW YEARS HOPEFULLY, DEPENDING ON THE CONSTELLATION OF LEADERSHIP IN PALESTINE, ISRAEL AND THE UNITED STATES.

WHAT'S THAT CONSTELLATION LOOK LIKE NOW?

RIGHT NOW, IT'S PROMISING BUT NOT PERFECT. I MEAN, FRANKLY, WHAT EXISTS HERE IN THE UNITED STATES IS THE STRONGEST SIDE OF THAT TRIANGLE. I THINK PRESIDENT OBAMA WILL BE WORKING VERY HARD TO ACHIEVE PEACE IN THE MIDDLE EAST. THIS IS NOT A COMMENT ON HOW PRESIDENT OBAMA FUNCTIONS IN OTHER AREAS BUT ON HIS CONTRIBUTIONS TO THE MIDDLE EAST. I THINK THAT'S THE STRONGEST PART OF THE TRIANGLE. IN PALESTINE, THERE IS A PRESIDENT OF PALESTINE WHO, I BELIEVE, IS A WEAK SIDE OF THE TRIANGLE, ALTHOUGH I HAVE GREAT RESPECT FOR HIS VIEWS AND AGREE WITH MANY THINGS HE SAYS, I DON'T THINK HE COMMANDS POWER AND AUTHORITY AMONG PALESTINIANS. BUT THERE ARE UPCOMING NEW LEADERS IN PALESTINE AND THEY DO. AND IF HE SETS THE TONE AND ONE OF THE YOUNG LEADERSHIP TAKES OVER, THAT WOULD BE EXCELLENT. NOW FOR THE ISRAELI SIDE, IT'S A LITTLE BIT MORE COMPLEX. WE HAVE A PRIME MINISTER NETANYAHU WHO IS NOT -- IS NOT PERCEIVED TO BE A MAN WOULD WANTS PEACE, BUT HE'S ACTUALLY A POLITICAL OPPORTUNIST AND WOULD GO WITH WHATEVER HIS CONSTITUENTS TELL HIM TO DO. HE'S PART OF A COALITION GOVERNMENT WHICH INCLUDES EXTREME RIGHT WINGERS AND I HAVE NO DOUBT THAT THEY WILL DROP OUT OF THE GOVERNMENT THE MOMENT PEACE REALLY GETS GOING, BUT THEY WILL BE REPLACED BY MORE CENTRISTS IN THE ISRAELI BODY POLITIC AND I BELIEVE THAT THEN TOGETHER WE WOULD HAVE A STRONG TRIANGLE FOR PEACE WITH OBAMA IN PLACE, A SUCCESSOR TO ABBAS IN PLACE AND A NEW GOVERNMENT HEADED BY NETANYAHU IN PLACE.

LET'S BEGIN WITH THE PALESTINIANS BECAUSE AS WE TAPE THIS PROGRAM, ALL THREE SIDES, IF YOU WILL ARE PREPARED TO MEET AS THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY OF THE UNITED NATIONS OPENS. MR. OBAMA PLANS TO MEET WITHIN THE NEXT 72 TO 48 HOURS WITH ALL PARTIES, SEPARATELY AT FIRST WE ARE TOLD AND THEN HOPEFULLY TOGETHER, ANYWAY. WE WILL SEE WHAT HAPPENS THERE. LET'S START WITH MR. ABBAS OR RATHER THE PALESTINIANS. IF HE DOES NOT SPEAK FOR THE PALESTINIANS AND HE SEEMS -- HIS POSITION SEEMS TO BE VERY TENUOUS AT BEST WHO DOES? ARE THE PALESTINIANS REPRESENTED IN NEW YORK RIGHT NOW OR IN THE TALKS RIGHT NOW BY SOMEONE WITH NO CREDIBILITY AMONG HIS OWN PEOPLE?

HE HAS LESS CREDIBILITY. NOT NO CREDIBLE. HIS VIEWS ARE VERY MODERATE VIEWS, PRO PEACE VIEWS, BUT AS I SAID, HE DOESN'T COMMAND THE RESPECT OR THE LOVE OF THE MASSES OF PALESTINIANS. IF YOU ASK ME WHO IS WAITING IN THE WINGS, I WOULD GIVE YOU PERHAPS A SURPRISING ANSWER. I THINK THE MOST LIKELY CANDIDATE TO MOVE INTO A POSITION OF LEADERSHIP IS A MAN WHO IS RIGHT NOW SITTING IN PRISON IN ISRAEL, SENTENCED ON CHARGES OF TERRORISM. HIS NAME IS MARWON BARGUTTI AND HE WAS HEAD OF A GROUP OF -- WHAT HAS BEEN TERMED TERRORISTS, FIGHTING AGAINST ISRAEL, BUT OVER THE COURSE OF THE YEARS IN PRISON, HE HAS DEVELOPED MORE CENTRIST AND MODERATE VIEWS. HE'S VERY MUCH IN FAVOR OF A FULL PEACE AGREEMENT WITH ISRAEL. NOW, HE HAS CREDIBILITY BECAUSE HE KILLED ISRAELIS. HE'S SAT IN ISRAELI PRISONS FOR A VERY LONG TIME. THE QUESTION IS, WILL ISRAEL ALLOW HIM OUT BECAUSE HE'S A PROMISING FIGURE TO MAKE PEACE? AND THE ANSWER TO THAT IS, IT'S ENTIRELY LIKELY THAT IN THE DEAL THAT ISRAEL STRIKES WITH PALESTINE TO RELEASE ISRAEL'S PRISONER OF WAR BEING HELD BY THE HAMAS PARTY, AS PART OF THAT DEAL, THEY MAY NEGOTIATE ALSO THE RELEASE OF MARWON BARGUTTI IN PRISON AND THAT WOULD RESHUFFLE THE DECK ENTIRELY AS FAR AS PALESTINE IS CONCERNED.

LET ME GO FIRST TO MR. OBAMA, OF ONE OF THE THREE PLAYERS HERE.

OKAY.

HOW MUCH CREDIBILITY DOES HE HAVE IN YOUR COUNTRY?

OBAMA IS LESS LIKED IN ISRAEL THAN HE IS OUTSIDE THE UNITED STATES, GENERALLY. HE'S LESS LIKED AND HE'S LESS TRUSTED. PART OF THAT HAS TO DO WITH FEAR THAT HE REPRESENTS MUSLIM CONSTITUENCY AND PERHAPS EVEN IS MUSLIM IN SECRET, A VIEW THAT OBVIOUSLY HE HAS DENIED ON MANY OCCASIONS. AND PART OF IT HAS TO DO WITH THE FACT THAT HE HAS PLAYED A MORE EVEN HANDED GAME WITH ISRAEL THAN ANY OF HIS PREDECESSORS. SO HE'S NOT WELL TRUSTED BY ISRAELIS, BUT TRUST IS NOT AN IMPORTANT PART OF THE EQUATION HERE.

OH, REALLY?

NO. I MEAN, ISRAELI TRUST FOR OBAMA? NO. OBAMA HAS A LOT OF POWER OVER ISRAEL, AND HE CAN EXERCISE THAT POWER IN MANY WAYS. HE DOESN'T HAVE TO HAVE ISRAELIS LIKING HIM, AS LONG AS HE REPRESENTS A POWERFUL INFLUENCE ON ISRAELI LIFE.

WELL, I GUESS THAT LEADS US TO THE THIRD LEG OF THE TRIANGLE -- SIDE OF THE TRIANGLE, IF YOU WILL AND THAT'S THE RULING GOVERNMENT IN ISRAEL, NOW MR. NEW ENGLAND. ENGLAND -- MR. NETANYAHU. IT WOULD APPEAR THAT IT'S BASED HEAVILY ON THE MOST CONSERVATIVE ELEMENTS OF ISRAELI POLITICAL SOCIETY. DOES THAT NECESSARILY BODE WELL FOR --

NO. THAT'S NOT THE GOVERNMENT THAT WILL MAKE PEACE. THIS IS COMPOSED OF EXTREMISTS, IN ADDITION TO THE MODERATES, BUT AS YOU SAY, THERE'S A VERY LARGE COMPONENT OF EXTREMIST ISRAELIS IN THAT GOVERNMENT. I HAVE NO DOUBT THAT ONCE THE BEGINNING OF PROGRESS IS MADE ON THE PEACE ISSUE, THAT GOVERNMENT WILL DISSOLVE AND THE EXTREMIST ALMOSTS WILL DROP OUT, BUT THEY WILL BE QUITE EASILY REPLACED BY THE MORE MODERATE PARTIES INSIDE ISRAEL, SPECIFICALLY THE PARTY THAT GAINED THE MOST VOTES, THAT WON THE MOST VOTES IN THE LAST ELECTION, A PARTY HEADED BY A WOMAN MODERATE. AND THAT PARTY WILL IMMEDIATELY JOIN THE GOVERNMENT TO OFFSET THE LOSS OF THE EXTREMIST PARTIES THAT DROP OUT.

IS MR. NETANYAHU THEN PREPARED TO SORT OF SACRIFICE HIMSELF POLITICALLY BECAUSE IT WOULD APPEAR IF HE LOSES HIS COALITION, HE LOSES HIS OFFICE, DOESN'T HE THIS.

NO, NOT NECESSARILY. COULD BE HEAD OF A COALITION GOVERNMENT --

IF HE CAN FORM ONE.

IF HE CAN FORM ONE AND I HAVE NO DOUBT THAT IF THERE'S A PEACE AGREEMENT ON THE TABLE, THAT'S ATTRACTIVE ENOUGH TO ISRAEL, THAT HE WOULD FORM A GOVERNMENT WITH THE LARGEST PARTY, THE PARTY OF THE WOMAN I MENTIONED, AND THE LABOR PARTY WILL CERTAINLY BE IN THERE, AND HE WILL HAVE THE SUPPORT OF ALL THE PARTIES IN THE CENTER AND THE LEFT. AND THAT WILL BE ENOUGH TO PUT THROUGH AND VOTE POSITIVELY ON A PEACE AGREEMENT.

WHAT'S AT STAKE? WHAT DO YOU TELL WHEN YOU ARE LECTURING IN THE UNITED STATES OR WRITING TO THE UNITED STATES? HOW DO YOU EXPLAIN THE U.S. STAKE?

WELL, THE U.S. STAKE. I'M MUCH MORE OF AN EXPERT ON THE ISRAELI STAKE WHICH IS MOST IMPORTANT TO ME.

WELL --

I THINK THE U.S. STAKE HAS TO DO WITH, FIRST OF ALL, GETTING TO STABILITY INTO THE MIDDLE EAST. IT HAS TO DO WITH THE POWER OF THE UNITED STATES IS THE ONLY SUPER POWER LEFT, AND NOT LOSING THAT POWER BECAUSE OF RISING MUSLIM EXTREMISM IN THE MIDDLE EAST. IT'S VERY IMPORTANT TO ACHIEVE PEACE BETWEEN ISRAEL AND ITS ARAB NEIGHBORS IN GENERAL AND PALESTINE IN PARTICULAR. SO THERE'S A LOT AT STAKE FROM THE UNITED STATES' PERSPECTIVE.

YOU WORRY ABOUT THE -- THE HARDLINE ELEMENTS. I THINK YOUR TERM FOR IT IS EXTREMIST IN ALL THREE OF THE ARABIC FAITHS THAT CLAIM HAVE SPIRITUAL TIES TO JERUSALEM, TO THE MIDDLE EAST, TO ISRAEL.

I'M WORRIED ABOUT EXTREMISM. I'M WORRIED ABOUT THE JEWISH EXTREMISM, WHICH HAS SET UP ROOTS IN THE CONQUERED TERRITORIES AND THEIR CLAIMS THAT THEY KNOW WHAT GOD WANTS AND THEIR GOD DOESN'T WANT PEACE. THEIR GOD WANTS THEM TO LIVE BY THE SWORD. THAT'S JEWISH EXTREMISM. THERE'S ISLAMIC EXTREMISM THAT WANTS TO PEACE AT ALL WITH ISRAEL, AND WOULD RATHER THROW ALL THE ISRAELIS INTO THE SEA. AND THEN THERE'S CHRISTIAN EXTREMISM ROOTED RIGHT HERE IN THE UNITED STATES, THAT GIVES THE FINANCIAL SUPPORT TO JEWISH EXTREMISM IN ISRAEL. AND I'M ALSO HERE TO TALK ABOUT THAT AND SEE IF WE CAN SOMEHOW PUT A LID ON THE CHRISTIAN EXTREMISM THAT'S FULLING JEWISH EXTREMISM.

WHICH RESULTS -- WHICH MEETS --

WHICH WOULD GO INTO INTRANSGENTS AND THE UNWILLINGNESS TO MAKE PEACE.

YOU ARE, AS I MENTIONED, A FOUNDER OF -- LET ME BACK UP BEFORE I DO THAT. SECRETARY CLINTON SAID JUST A COUPLE OF DAYS AGO, AND I THINK I'M QUOTING HER ACCURATELY, THE U.S. CANNOT MAKE IT, MEANING A DEAL. THE U.S. CANNOT MAKE THE DEAL. THE ARAB NATIONS CANNOT MAKE THE DEAL. IT IS UP TO THE PALESTINIANS AND IT IS UP TO THE ISRAELIS. THEY HAVE TO MAKE IT WORK, WHICH I GUESS IS -- HAS ALWAYS BEEN THE CASE. SO YOU RETAIN -- DO YOU STRAIN FOR YOUR OPTIMISM?

DO I STRAIN FOR IT?

DO YOU STRAIN?

IS IT A STRETCH FOR ME?

YEAH. I GUESS THAT'S ONE WAY TO PUT IT.

NO. BY THE WAY, I THINK THAT SOMEHOW THERE'S AN ASSUMPTION THAT ISRAELIS AND PALESTINIANS DON'T WANT TO GET TO PEACE, WHEN, IN FACT, THEY DO. 70% OF ISRAELIS WANT TO END THE OCCUPATION OF PALESTINE. THEY WANT TO WITHDRAW FROM PALESTINE AND GET A PEACE AGREEMENT WITH THEM. NOW, THAT'S 70% OF ISRAELIS AND 80% OF PALESTINIANS WANT THE VERY SAME THING. SO THAT IT'S NOT A STRETCH TO THINK WHEN 70% OF ONE SIDE AND 80% OF THE OTHER WANT THE DEAL TO GO THROUGH.

BUT IT'S THE 20 AND THE 30% RESPECTIVELY THAT SEEM TO BE DRIVING IT AND NOT THE MAJORITY.

ABSOLUTELY. THAT ARE SETTING THE AGENDA AND PUTTING UP OBSTACLES AND MAKING IT VERY DIFFICULT. YES.

THE OCCUPATION IS UN -- TALKING ABOUT THE OCCUPATION, YOU SAID LAST YEAR, I THINK AND REFERRING SPECIFICALLY TO THE WEST BANK, BECAUSE YOU -- I THINK WHEN YOU SAID THIS, THE ISRAELIS ALREADY LEFT GAZA.

YES.

THE OCCUPATION IS ON JEWISH AND UNHUMAN. THE UNHUMAN, A VIEWER COULD UNDERSTAND. UNJEWISH, THOUGH?

WE, IN THE BIBLE, ARE TAUGHT TO ACCEPT THE STRANGER IN OUR LAND AND STREET THE STRANGER WITH RESPECT. THAT'S NOT HOW THE OCCUPATION IS DEALING WITH PALESTINIANS. THE STRANGER IN OUR MIDST, IN THE WEST BANK IS THE PALESTINIAN, AND WE HAVE HAD BRUTAL POLICIES TOWARDS PALESTINIANS THERE. THAT'S SIMPLY UNJEWISH.

A NECESSARY RESPONSE, SOME WOULD ARGUE. YOU -- WELL, YOU ALSO SAID, I REFUSE TO CONSIDER THE PALESTINIANS MY ENEMY OR MY ENEMIES. ENAIVE YOUR CRITICS WOULD SAY, PARTICULARLY WHEN THEY ARE SHELLING YOU. [ CHUCKLES ]

WE HAVE HAD SHELLS FALL ON US FROM GAZA, MOST RECENTLY, AND THAT IS NOT REPRESENTATIVE OF PALESTINIANS AT LARGE. THAT'S REPRESENTATIVE OF THE HAMAS PARTY. NOW, THE HAMAS GROUP IS MUSLIM EXTREMISTS, AND, AGAIN, THEY ARE NOT REPRESENTATIVE OF THE PALESTINIAN PEOPLE. THEY WOULD LIKE NOTHING BETTER THAN ISRAEL TO NO LONGER EXIST. SO I DON'T -- YOU KNOW, THERE IS PALESTINIAN EXTREMISM, AND TERRORISM. WE'VE SUFFERED FROM IT. I'VE LOST DEAR ONES. MY CHILDREN HAVE LOST FRIENDS ON SUICIDE BOMBINGS ON BUSES. IT'S NOT AS IF WE ARE OBLIVIOUS TO THE TERRORISM THAT COMES AT US, BUT BY THE SAME TOKEN, WE KNOW THAT THE VAST MAJORITY OF PALESTINIANS DON'T WANT THAT TO CONTINUE. THEY WANT TO PUT IT TO AN END. I SAY TO YOU VERY CLEARLY, WE CANNOT CONTINUE TO LIVE BY THE SWORD, NOT BECAUSE IT -- IT'S AWKWARD, BUT BECAUSE WE WOULD NOT SURVIVE IF WE TRIED TO CONTINUE TO LIVE BY THE SWORD. THERE IS NO MILITARY SOLUTION. WE CAN'T KILL EVERYONE WHO DOESN'T LIKE US. THE ONLY WAY TO SURVIVE IS TO SIT DOWN AND MAKE PEACE. OUR BEST FORM OF SECURITY IS TO COME UP WITH A PEACE DEAL, A PEACE AGREEMENT THAT WORKS ENOUGH FOR BOTH SIDES SO THAT THEN WE CAN PUT INTO PLACE THE BUILDING BLOCKS THAT WILL MAKE BOTH NATIONS DEEPLY INVESTED IN MAINTAINING THAT PEACE. THAT'S HOW I SEE HOW THE DYNAMIC IS WORKING.

WELL, HELPING TO SHAPE THE DYNAMIC RIGHT NOW IS IRAN, LED BY A PRESIDENT WHO IS SOMEWHAT GLEEFULLY ACKNOWLEDGES THAT, YEAH, WE WANT TO BOMB. WE ARE GETTING ONE. WE MIGHT HAVE ONE. P.S., THE HOLOCAUST NEVER HAPPENED.

HE'S A DASTARDLY MAN. HE'S A BIG PROBLEM, BUT, YOU KNOW, I DON'T BOMB EVERY POLITICAL LEADER I DON'T LIKE, EVEN THE ONES WOULD SAY THE MOST GHASTLY KINDS OF THINGS. HE HAS TO BE DEMOCRATICALLY ELECTED OUT OF OFFICE, AND IF THIS ELECTION DIDN'T DO IT, THEN I HOPE THE NEXT ELECTION IN IRAN WILL DO IT.

WHAT DOES IT SUGGEST, THOUGH, THAT -- THAT THE IRANIAN DEMONSTRATIONS, THE COUNTERDEMONSTRATIONS AGAINST MR. MAHMOUD AHMADINEJAD, WHAT DOES THAT SUGGEST TO YOU?

HOPE. HOPE. IT MEANS TO ME THAT THERE'S A RISING SWELL OF IRANIAN PEOPLE WHO WANT DEMOCRACY WHO WANT AN END TO THE TYRANNY OF AHMADINEJAD AND WANT TO PUT IN PLACE THE KIND OF LIFE THAT THEY SEE AND READ ABOUT IN OTHER COUNTRIES.

THERE ARE, YOU KNOW, CALLS FOR -- THERE ARE THOSE WHO WOULD ADVOCATE SOLVING IF, AS IT WERE, THE PROBLEM OF AN IRANIAN NUCLEAR THREAT BY PREEMPTIVE STRIKES, FORCEFUL, ARTICULATE IN THEIR OWN WAY, ARTICULATE ARGUMENTS FOR ISRAEL, OR SHORT OF, THAT THE U.S. TO STRIKE AT IRAN. HOW MUCH -- HOW MUCH SEDIMENT WITHIN ISRAEL -- HOW DOES SEDIMENT WITHIN ISRAEL BREAK DOWN ON THAT?

I DON'T KNOW WHAT THE POLLS SAY ABOUT SUPPORT FOR A STRIKE AGAINST IRAN. CERTAINLY THE POLLS INDICATE THAT ISRAELIS ARE TERRIFIED OF A NUCLEAR STRIKE BY IRAN. AND I KNOW THAT ISRAELIS, I MYSELF WOULD BE CONCERNED ABOUT THAT, ARE CONCERNED ABOUT IT. ON THE OTHER HAND, IT STRIKES ME AS IRRATIONAL TO THINK THAT THE LEADER OF A MUSLIM NATION WOULD DROP A BOMB ON THE SITE OF MANY HOLY SITES, HOLY TO ISLAM. IT'S NOT LIKELY THAT HE WOULD JEOPARDIZE THE SACRED MOSQUE OF ILACSA IN JERUSALEM. AND YOU DON'T KNOW WHAT THOSE NUCLEAR BOMBS ARE GOING TO DO NEXT. I DON'T THINK HE WILL DROP THE BOMBS ON US, EVEN WHEN HE HAS THE CAPABILITY. NONETHELESS, I THINK WE HAVE TO PREVENT THAT CAPABILITY AND WE HAVE TO DO IT BY SANCTIONS AND VERY STRONG SANCTIONS AND NOT BY BEGINNING THE HORRIBLE CYCLE OF VIOLENCE OF ATTACKING HIM.

IT'S NOT A CORE PROBLEM, OR "THE," IT IS A CAR PROBLEM. THAT'S THE -- A CORE PROBLEM. THAT IS A DISPOSITION OF JERUSALEM. WOULD YOU DESIGN A POLICY?

I THINK IT'S CRYSTAL CLEAR AND OBVIOUS THAT JERUSALEM HAS TO BE A SHARED CAPITAL, THAT JERUSALEM -- THAT THE JEWISH NEIGHBORHOODS OF JERUSALEM WOULD BECOME THE CAPITAL OF ISRAEL, AND THE PALESTINIAN NEIGHBORHOODS OF JERUSALEM WOULD BECOME THE CAPITAL OF PALESTINE. AFTER ALL, JERUSALEM STRADDLES BOTH, STRADDLES ISRAEL AND PALESTINE, OR THE FUTURE STATE OF PALESTINE. AND IT STRIKES ME THAT THERE'S NO PROBLEM WITH SHARING THAT CITY. IT'S A WONDERFUL CITY. IT'S CHERISHED BY PEOPLE OF THREE RELIGIONS AND WE CAN DIVIDE UP THE MUNICIPAL SERVICES IN A WAY THAT MAKES RATIONAL SENSE, BUT SHARE THE SYMBOL OF JERUSALEM IN A NEW KIND OF PARADIGM FOR HOW PEOPLE CAN TREAT EACH OTHER.

WOMEN IN BLACK, YOUR ORGANIZATION. YOU HELPED FOUND IT. WHEN ALL IS SAID AND DONE, WHENEVER THAT MAY BE, WILL IT BE -- WILL WOMEN HAVE PLAYED A PARTICULAR ROLE, A UNIQUE ROLE IN MOVING THIS PROCESS ALONG?

I HAVE NO DOUBT IN MY MIND. THE WOMEN'S PEACE MOVEMENT IS NOT ONLY ABOUT SAYINGEN OF THE BELLIGERENCE ON BOTH SIDES, BUT WE HAVE TO BUILD TOGETHER A NEW -- A NEW KIND OF PEACE, A PEACE THAT'S NOT JUST NONBELLIGERENCE BUT COOPERATION BETWEEN BOTH SIDES, SO THAT WE DON'T JUST DRAW A LINE OR BORDER BETWEEN US AND LOCK THE DOOR AND THROW AWAY THE KEY. NOT AT ALL. WE ARE TALKING ABOUT A POROUS BORDER THAT WOULD ALLOW EXCHANGE OF -- THE COMMERCE, INDUSTRY, CULTURE, SPORTS, EVERY WAY IN WHICH WE BUILD TOGETHER A NEW KIND OF MIDDLE EAST THAT WILL BE BASED NOT JUST ON NOT HURTING EACH OTHER, BUT DEVELOPING TOGETHER AND SHARING OUR RESOURCES.

WELL, WOMEN HAVE NOT HAD DIFFICULTY MAKING THEIR VOICES HEARD, AT LEAST IN RECENT YEARS, I MEAN, WHETHER IN NORTHERN IRELAND, IN THE UNITED STATES NOW, PERHAPS IN THE MIDDLE EAST. ARE WOMEN TOUGHER THAN MEN? ARE THEY SMARTER? SHREWDER? MORE SENSITIVE, WHAT --

I DON'T THINK SO. I THINK THAT MEN ARE EXPECTED TO BE TOUGH, BUT THEY ARE NOT ALL TOUGH. AND I THINK THAT MEN HAVE A HEART, JUST AS THERE ARE WOMEN WHO ARE TOUGH. I THINK ULTIMATELY WE'RE BOTH DEEPLY INVESTED IN GETTING TO A KIND OF EXISTENCE THAT WILL BE ONE IN WHICH WE'RE COMFORTABLE AND NOT FEELING THREATENED. SO, NO, I DON'T THINK WOMEN HAVE A SPECIAL CONTRIBUTION TO MAKE, BUT I DO THINK THAT WOMEN HAVE BEEN HELD DOWN OVER THE YEARS, AND WERE WOMEN TO HAVE GREATER ROLE IN DECISION MAKING, THAT WOULD MAKE A BIG DIFFERENCE, I THINK IN GETTING TO PEACE.

IS IT MORE DIFFICULT TO FIND THOSE OF SHARED VIEW IN THE ISLAMIC COMMUNITY, WOMEN IN THE ISLAMIC COMMUNITY BECAUSE, I MEAN, THE GENDER ROLES ASSIGNED, IN THE ISLAMIC COUNTRIES, I GATHER, THEY ARE FAR STRICTER THAN THEY HAVE BEEN IN CHRISTIAN OR JUDAISM.

THE ISRAELI WOMEN'S PEACE MOVEMENT HAS A GOOD MANY PARTNERS ON THE PALESTINIAN SIDE. PALESTINIAN WOMEN WHO ARE BOTH MUSLIM AND CHRISTIAN, AND SHARE OUR VALUES, SHARE OUR VIEWS, SHARE OUR INTEREST IN EDUCATION FOR OUR FAMILY. WE HAVE A GREAT DEAL IN COMMON. THEY ARE WELL TRAVELED. THEY ARE WELL READ. THEY ARE WELL'D WELL EDUCATED AE HAVE A COMMON LANGUAGE, ENDING BLOOD SHED AND GETTING TO PEACE.

YOU MENTIONED PALESTINE, BUT CAN THIS GO FURTHER INTO, I THINK, CONDITIONS ARE BETTER IMPROVED IN JORDAN AND IN SOME OF THE GULF STATES, ELSEWHERE IN THE ARAB LEAGUE, THOUGH, IT'S STILL PRETTY TENSE FOR WOMEN, ISN'T IT?

IT PROBABLY IS. I DON'T KNOW. I'M ISRAELI AND I HAVE NEVER BEEN THERE. SO I KNOW AS MUCH AS YOU FROM WHAT I READ. I DON'T KNOW.

IS THERE A CONCLUDING MESSAGE YOU WOULD OFFER ABOUT THE PROSPECTS FOR -- THIS AWFUL, FESTERING NIGHTMARE?

YES. I WANT TO AGREE WITH MRS. CLINTON AND I WANT TO DISAGREE WITH HER. ALTHOUGH I AGREE THAT ISRAEL AND PALESTINE ARE THE ULTIMATE BOTTOM LINE IN THE DEAL, I WANT TO DISAGREE AND SAY THAT WE IMMEDIATE THE HELP OF THE UNITED STATES. WE NEED THEIR HELP. WE KNOW THAT IT'S THE PALESTINIANS AND THE ISRAELIS WHO WILL HAVE TO LIVE WITH THE CONSEQUENCES, BUT WE'VE HAD TROUBLE GETTING TO THAT BOTTOM LINE OF PEACE AND WITHOUT THE AMERICAN INTERVENTION, I THINK WE WILL HAVE A HARDER TIME GETTING THERE.

YOU SEE A NEW AMERICAN INTERVENTION NOW, IT WASN'T A FRONT BURNER ISSUE IN THE PREVIOUS EIGHT YEARS. FOR THE LAST, PERHAPS, BUT --

YES. I THINK OBAMA STANDS A BETTER CHANCE OF GETTING THERE. HE DOES HAVE MORE TRUST OF THE ARAB COUNTRIES. HE HAS BEEN PLAYING A MUCH MORE EVEN HANDED ROLE. HE UNDERSTANDS HIS POWER VIS-A-VIS ISRAEL, MAINLY ISRAEL WOULD BE ISOLATED IN THE WORLD WITHOUT AMERICAN ALLIANCE AND THAT'S A VERY POWERFUL POSITION. ISRAEL DOESN'T WANT TO BE ALONE FACING THE U.N. AND ALL THE ANGRY COUNTRIES THERE, ANGRY AT ISRAEL. WITHOUT AMERICAN SUPPORT IN INTERNATIONAL ARENAS, AND WITHOUT AMERICAN FOREIGN AID, ISRAEL WOULD BE NOTHING, AND THEREFORE AMERICA HAS A LOT OF POWER IN THE MIDDLE EAST AND SHOULD USE IT TO THE GOOD TO MAKE THE DEMAND THAT WE REACH A PEACE AGREEMENT BETWEEN BOTH SIDES.

GILA SVIRSKY, THANK YOU VERY MUCH FOR YOUR TIME.

THANK YOU.

AND WE'LL SEE YOU NEXT TIME.

AETN.org > Programs > Barnes and... > Barnes and... A Conversation with Gila Svirsky