Israel's 60th Anniversary: 'A Jew from Morning to Night'

Part 2: 'The Peace Movement Was Destroyed by its own Greatest Success'

SPIEGEL: The Jewish writer Leon de Winter predicts that Israel will no longer exist in 30 years and that, instead, there will be a large Palestine with a Jewish minority.

Tommy Lapid: Well, I'm not that pessimistic, either. We recognize the risks, but we should also remember that in all wars Israel has had to wage since its foundation, fewer Jews died than in a small Polish city during the Holocaust.

Yair Lapid: Eleven Israeli civilians were killed in terrorist attacks since the beginning of the year. More people die in car accidents in Israel on a single weekend. It seems more dangerous than it is. When I visited New York for the first time, friends warned me against going into Central Park, saying that I would be mugged there. And then you walk into Central Park, and nothing happens. Compared with some European countries, we're actually doing rather well.

SPIEGEL: Shulamit, why doesn't the Israeli-Arab conflict figure in your books?

Shulamit Lapid: Because it's such a big issue. Besides, we have other problems, too -- with education, for example, and with the economy. We have more poor people than we used to.

Yair Lapid: The Arab-Israeli conflict is the biggest problem, but small problems shape the daily lives of Israelis. Unless there happens to be a war going on, the Arab-Israeli conflict is irrelevant in daily life.

Shulamit Lapid: That's typical Tel Aviv. In Sderot, which is hit by rockets from the Gaza Strip almost every day, they see things a little differently. I have always been sympathetic with the periphery. Beersheba, on the edge of the Negev Desert, is at the center of my detective stories, while a clumsy local reporter is the heroine.

Yair Lapid: The greatest tragedy of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is that everyone knows how it will end. We will divide up the region. Israel will return most of the West Bank, and the Palestinian flag will fly on public buildings in East Jerusalem. The only unanswered question is how many more people will have to die along the way. And so we will fight against the extremists on both sides, including our extremists, the settlers. When you look at the history of wars, they ultimately revolve around one claim: "My god is better than yours."

SPIEGEL: The dispute cuts straight through the family of your friends, the Olmerts. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, originated in the nationalist, right-wing Likud movement and has since moved into the political center. His wife Alisa and their children are aligned with the Israeli peace movement.

Yair Lapid: Such a deep divide doesn't exist in our family.

Tommy Lapid: Besides, the Israeli left is practically dead.

Shulamit Lapid: That isn't true, Tommy. The political center has become the left.

Tommy Lapid: The peace movement was destroyed by its own greatest success, the withdrawal from the Gaza Strip. Sharon did what the peace movement had demanded for years. And what did we get? Hamas rules Gaza, and the terror continues unabated.

SPIEGEL: But it was you and your friend Ehud Olmert who convinced Sharon to pull out of Gaza.

The evacuation of Jewish settlers from the Gaza Strip (2005): "We were the future."
AFP

The evacuation of Jewish settlers from the Gaza Strip (2005): "We were the future."

Tommy Lapid: That's true. We wanted to get out of Gaza. It was the right move. At the same time, it was a sort of litmus test that revealed the Palestinians' intentions to us. A withdrawal from the West Bank will be very difficult, for two reasons: What will we do if Hamas wins the elections there, as well, or forcefully assumes power? And what will we do with our settlers? How are we to evacuate tens of thousands of people?

SPIEGEL: Yair, you became a journalist like your father. Could you imagine following in his footsteps and going into politics?

Yair Lapid: I've thought about it.

Tommy Lapid: Yair is too modest. In fact, hardly a month goes by without Ehud Barak, the chairman of the Labor Party, asking him about it.

Shulamit Lapid: I don't think Yair is made for it.

Tommy Lapid: That's true. He's much too good-natured.

SPIEGEL: Tommy, you wrote a travel guide many years ago. Where would you take tourists who come to Israel today for the first time?

Tommy Lapid: To Jerusalem, even though I don't like the city at all. Jerusalem is old-fashioned, boring and too religious. But it's a city that can't be compared with any other city in the world.

Shulamit Lapid: I would take them to Yair's house. There they would get to know his friends, who lead a completely normal, happy and relaxed life -- a far cry from the image people abroad have of Israel.

Yair Lapid: I would invite them to the Genki. That's a club in Tel Aviv. They have a stage where guests sing Israeli songs, and then everyone sings along and dances on the tables. In my opinion, vitality is what best characterizes Israel.

Tommy Lapid: No, if there is a word that characterizes us Jews, it is intelligence. We have produced more Nobel laureates per capita than any other people in the world. It's intelligence that sets us apart.

Shulamit Lapid: So why do we often act so stupidly?

Tommy Lapid: That's a good question.

SPIEGEL: Tommy, Shulamit, Yair, we thank you for this interview.

Interview conducted by Martin Doerry and Christoph Schult.

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