Excerpted from comments by Yossi Klein Halevi at AIPAC in 2017.
2017 AIPAC Conference
Yossi Klein Helvi with Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat and Knesset Member Michael Oren. Moderator: David Horovitz
Washington, DC, March 27, 2017
The question that has long preoccupied me about Israeli society is how do we manage to hold together despite the tremendous internal strains that could tear another society apart, especially the left-right debate over the future of Judea and Samaria, the territories; because each camp sees the vision of the other as a kind of existential threat to the country itself.
David Horovitz: … Yossi, your book, Like Dreamers, tracks the lives of the Israeli paratroopers who reunified the city. What did you learn?
Yossi Klein Halevi: Well, the question that has long preoccupied me about Israeli society is how do we manage to hold together despite the tremendous internal strains that could tear another society apart, especially the left-right debate over the future of Judea and Samaria, the territories; because each camp sees the vision of the other as a kind of existential threat to the country itself.
And as I was researching the story of Brigade 55, which liberated the Wall, I realized that some of the leaders of both the future settlement movement and the future peace movement were sharing the same metaphorical tent, the same army tent, and in some cases, literally the same tent.
And so the extraordinary inner story of Israel is how we manage to pull together. We do reserve duty every year. And then in the intervals between reserve duty, we argue with each other about the consequences of the victory that the victories that we bring together.
David Horovitz: This was left and right fought together, liberated Jerusalem, and you think that that most basic of connection prevails still? It still holds us together?
Yossi Klein Halevi: Absolutely.
David Horovitz: So (1967 was) a moment that sort of cemented a sort of national self-confidence. Yossi?
Yossi Klein Halevi: Well, I study the psyche of Israel, the soul of Israel, and so my answer will be a little more abstract. May 1967 bequeathed us a permanent sense of the possibility of vulnerability, the fear of being alone again in the international community, and the sense that the threat of genocide was not exhausted by the Holocaust, which I think was an enormous shock to the Jewish psyche.
On the other hand, June 1967 bequeathed us this sense of power. Not invulnerability, but certainly the sense that we can protect ourselves quite adequately. And also it conveyed to us a sense of the responsibility of power and the complexity of the consequences of power. And so I feel that the people of Israel are constantly weighing, in some sense, the blessings of May ’67 and the lessons of June ’67; and how do we apply those lessons to the various challenges that we face.
David Horovitz: That brings me, really, to the last question I have to ask you, fairly briefly. You know, the traditional gift for a 50th anniversary is gold and, of course, Jerusalem is known as Jerusalem of Gold.
So on the golden anniversary of the city’s reunification…what wish do you have for the city’s future….
Yossi Klein Halevi: My prayer for Jerusalem, my city, our city, is that the international community will recognize the Jewish people as the legitimate custodian of Jerusalem and that we will see ourselves as the custodians of Jerusalem for humanity.