Victor Brailovsky is a well-known man. He was a former "prisoner of Zion". Today Victor Brailovsky is a lecturer of the Tel Aviv University, a brilliant mathematician, Knesset deputy from Shinui party".
- Victor, what does Israel expect from Russia?
- We do not expect from Russian the pro-Israel policy. Minimum, we want Russia not to be an instigator as it was in the Soviet times. Maximum, it can use its influence to curb the most aggressive forces in the Arab World.
- How do you see the present situation in the Middle East? What does Israel expect in the nearest future?
- Not a simple conflict but something more dangerous began to develop in Israel a year ago. Until those events the Israelis society was eagerly expecting peace. There was no doubt at that time that we were close to an agreement with Arabs. The rightists differed from the leftists only in details - these lands can't be given, those might be granted. Now, the whole Oslo conception collapsed. We began comprehending that Arafat needs no peace. Sharon is right by saying that for serious talks a certain period of time is needed to restore trust.
- How do you assess Sharon's policy?
- I consider Sharon is the leader our country needs at present. He is strongly supported by the society and Knesset. All attempts to undermine his positions by the leftists and rightists failed. It looks as if he hasn't done a single mistake yet. Sharon is rather clever. This opinion is not only the words but based upon my personal communication experience with him. He clearly understands all restrictions imposing on Israel but he also sees Israel's opportunities. By the way, Barak failed to use the opportunities.
- What opportunities do you mean?
- I mean the situation inside the Arab world. All Arafat's plans to involve Egypt and Jordan into the conflict and then, by Yugoslavia model, to bring the UN troops failed. Despite loud statements and declarations of Arab leaders nobody is in the hurry "to help" Arafat, nobody is ready to send troops there. On the one hand, Arab countries support the idea of fighting against Israel as a common enemy. On the other hand they are afraid of Palestine State being created. Their unity breaks easily as soon as the question - Who will pay for terror? - arises. Arab leaders promised $1 billion to the Palestinian leadership but gave at most $30 millions with a considerable effort.
Meanwhile, Arafat ruined his own economy which he had hardly managed to set up. Joint Israeli-Palestinian enterprises have been destroyed. Palestinians burnt them themselves. The standard of living on Palestinian territories declined three-fold. There is a hunger there. The unemployment reached 50 - 60%. Alongside with this, new and young revolutionary leaders appeared in Palestine and they are impairing the power of Arafat himself. They set up their own groups which, on the one side, shoot at Israel and, on the other side, terrorize the Arab population. There is a transition of generations in Palestine and much depends on who will come to power to change Arafat.
- How does the growing conflict with Palestinians influence the distribution of political forces inside Israel?
- Likud has strengthened its positions. However, the new election law may change the former political configuration. Avoda dreams to return to the old, two-party system. But it has no chance until now. It is split and lost its former ideology which was based mainly on the peaceful process ideas. As to my party Shinui, the survey data of several months old showed that we could win 12 mandates, now we have only 7. However, the positions of our chief opponent, ultra-religions SHAS party, also have weakened. Some analysts think that under present conditions, even IBA, Sharansky party, could not go into Knesset. However, much may change till the election.
- Shinui party is not well known in the diaspora though it has deputies in Knesset. Couldn't you speak about it in detail?
- Our visiting card is the role of the Jewish religion in the public life of the country. The role should be high but no dictatorship. Young people, who work in high technologies and constitute the economic elite of Israel, are mostly non-religious. They not want to be under somebody's command. Otherwise they leave the country. It was they who have high earnings, pay the lion share of taxes and these taxes support the network of eshivs, large religious families. Spiritual leaders have to "spread the wise, good and eternal". But when a religious party goes in for politics, this is not good. Besides, it begins losing its authority. Nowadays, less and less people in Israel are interested in Jewish religion, traditions and philosophy. One of the reasons is that they experience enmity to the to the ultra-orthodox circles. This enmity repulses people from spiritual traditions as they are. At the same time, we are radically different from such parties as, for example, Merets, which also opposes the domination of religion but does this from the extreme, hardly not, pro-Arabic positions. Shinui is a Zionist party. Together with MAFDAL we developed a law on the Zionist and Jewish nature of the State of Israel. We got together and came to a conclusion that when the Jewish nature of the country is criticized and opposed from all sides such a law is urgently needed. The law is based on such cornerstones as the Repatriation Law, as it is now, legislation of "Atikva" as the hymn of Israel, and the coat-of-arms of our country. Until now, the coat-of-arms has not been legislated by any law! Some politicians think that the law on the coat-of-arms is a deal with certain religious circles because it interpreted the notion "Jewish nature" in a narrow Galakhah meaning. In fact, we like to protect the Repatriation Law from distortions. The law is being criticized from all sides. Of course, not all paragraphs in it are ideal. I, for example, consider more acceptable the natural symmetry between father and mother for identifying the Jewish origin. However, it is unreal to introduce such amendments into the Law until the situation with different forces in the society changes. However, now, despite all its drawbacks, millions of people can repatriate owing to this Law. The Law is in force, it works and must be protected.
- As we started speaking about the aliyah problems, can you tell us why the contradictions between natives Israelis and repatriates increased for the last few years?
- When a massive heterogeneous group constituting up to 20% of the population and consisting of many high professionals with their natural demands arrives in the country, the contradictions and struggle for jobs are natural. 10 years have passed since the beginning of the big aliyah. The absorption of different professional groups is different. On the one hand, we observe some boom in high technology industries. 35% of "brains" working there are repatriates from the former USSR. This is a new elite of the country. Worse is with humanitarians. Here comes the language problem. As a result with have a "Russian" subculture in the country, with its literature, theatres and newspapers. I think we have to think about it philosophically, like about the wandering in the desert. In time the aliyah will change.
Normal, comfortable life conditions should be created for repatriates. We should not create extra difficulties for them, as life in Israel itself is not easy. Time passes, children will grow, finish Israeli schools, serve in the army and fully comprehend the Jewish culture. After 40 years nobody will ask and remember where they come from. Thanks God, the present repatriates have brought their children and grand children with them.
Interviewed by Leonid Gomberg
and Gregoriy Melamed
"Vestnik EAR", Moscow