Israel not seeking peace to the extent it should, says former central bank chief

In rare public rebuke, the widely esteemed Stanley Fischer tells NYU forum that country is divided 'between those who want to settle the West Bank and those who seek peace.'

Former Bank of Israel Governor Stanley Fischer.
Former Bank of Israel Governor Stanley Fischer in Washington, November 19, 2013. / Photo by Reuters
By Chemi Shalev
Published 21:08 03.12.13

Former Bank of Israel Governor Stanley Fischer says that Israel is not looking for peace "to the extent that it should” and that it is “divided between those who want to settle the West Bank and those who seek peace.”

The rare public criticism of Israeli policy from the soft-spoken former governor, widely credited with navigating the successful Israeli economy of the past decade, came during a discussion of “Israel: the View from the Inside Out,”  which convened on Tuesday evening at the Center on Law and Security of New York University’s School of Law. Participating in the panel alongside Fischer were former Supreme Court President Dorit Beinisch, Hebrew University Professor Moshe Halbertal and New Republic Literary Editor Leon Wieseltier, who moderated.

“The approach that we have to be strong because if we’re not strong we will be defeated is absolutely correct but it is not the only the part of national strategy,” Fischer said. “The other part is the need to look for peace, and that part is not happening to the extent that it should.”

“The country seems to me to be divided between those who want to settle the West Bank and those who seek peace. It is a huge challenge for the future for a country whose achievements are so extraordinary,” he added.

Fischer, who is now a Distinguished Fellow at the New Yorkbased Council on Foreign Relations, said that “the miracle of Israel it its normalcy, which is maintained thanks to the Israel Defense Forces.” He added that defense spending is currently 8 percent of GDP, down from a third of GDP following the 1973 Yom Kippur War. “But there are always more threats and there are always more reasons to spend on defense – and Israel is at a moment when it wants to spend more on defense.”

Fischer recounted the achievements of the Israeli economy, which flourished even as the world was undergoing a deep recession, but also noted the challenges facing it, first and foremost of which are demographic. Fischer cited statistics showing that the ultra-Orthodox sector doubles itself every 17 years, the Israeli Arab sector every 25 years and the rest of Israel - every 40 years. At this rate, he said, in 45 years the ultra-Orthodox and Arabs will form a majority, and if their rate of participation in the work force does not improve, “it will be very problematic from an economic viewpoint.”

Fischer also noted the declining achievements of the Israeli education system and the country’s lowly position in the international PISA tests. He said that the reason for this is simple: “The rest of the world is investing more in universities and schools, but Israel is not.” Fischer said that the existence of four separate streams of Israeli education – secular, modern Orthodox, ultra-Orthodox and Arab” – perpetuates social divisions as well as the lower rates of work participation in the Arab and ultra-Orthodox sectors.

Beinisch spoke of the role of Israel's Supreme Court in maintaining Israeli democracy and noted that “the dangers from inside are not less than the threats from outside.” Halbertal lambasted the continuing Israeli control of the territories, saying that without a resolution of the problem, “we will turn into either Lebanon or South Africa.”

Halbertal said that Israeli Jews will not survive as a minority in their own country. “You might wind up with a country with secure and defensible borders, but not necessarily a country that is worth defending,” he said.


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  • 13.
    Have they ever no sufficient evidence ?
    Have they ever no sufficient evidence that Israel's neighbors would never work for real peace in the region? that Palestinian Muslims are mere instruments of various Islamic countries, Western communists today self-styled socialist and anti-Semites in general ? Does anyone still have any doubt that their goal is to destroy Israel gradually get more and more land every agreement "peace" ?
  • 12.
    Israel is only going through the motions of wanting Peace. If Israel really want peace it could have it tomorrow.
  • 11.
    Former central bank chief
    Its flattering that Fisher remembers us after migrating from Israel back to the United States and has found time to level criticism.
  • 10.
    He better stick to his own area of economic policy
    Because what he says on the Arab-Israel conflict doesn't sense.
  • 9.
    Far Left Unites with Far Right
    Arafat turned down the west bank deal. It isn't about land, it is about Islamist ideology and attacking Israel. The far left can't stop blaming Israel or the west for anything. The far left and the far right (the Islamist) seem to be united in hate of good and western civilization. They both recognize their enemy is individualism.
  • The left is dead. How many socialists yet alone communists do you know?
    By left wing you mean people who value human rights, non subscribers to the out of control might is right military financial industrial complex
  • 8.
    How would an outsider determine that?
    I he lived in Israel would he jeopardise the safety of his children relying on assistance on US or others who claim that they will protect Israel if arabs break the agreements? Fat chance. Let Israel decide what is allowable whats not.
  • 7.
    what about
    the majority that doesn't want to settle judea and samaria but don't believe in peace with arabs.
  • 6.
    The world will open it's arms to an Israel of peace,
    and turn it's back on the Israel who chooses to occupy the West Bank. Your choice, in with the world or out.
  • 5.
    Peace
    Did anybody fall for Israeli intent to have Peace I don't think so.
  • 4.
    This is the reality of the Israeli society , a society that is not built on consensus.
    Opposing political divisions , the religious and the secular , the Ashkenazim and the Sephardim ,The Zionists and the ultra Zionists , an identity crisis where more than 25 per cent of the population do not identify with the State and its vision/visions. 35 governments since 48 shows political paralysis.
  • 3.
    This is the reality of the Israeli society , a society that is not built on consensus.
    Opposing political divisions , the religious and the secular , the Ashkenazim and the Sephardim ,The Zionists and the ultra Zionists , an identity crisis where more than 25 per cent of the population do not identify with the State and its vision/visions. 35 governments since 48 shows political paralysis.
  • 2.
    Time to separate US Jews from Israelis
    But for a hegemonist Israel they want us to be bluffed, so smart US Jews are questionning what the hell Israel is doing. In a few years they ll discover that they need to kick Israel in the butt.
  • 1.
    Stanley Fischer tells NYU forum that country is divided 'between those who want to settle the West Bank and those who seek peace.'
    Stanley Fischer, you are right, but the problem is that it is the Left who seek peace and since for some strange reason, most Israelis and the Western world nations, brand the Left as the bad guys and this is why a true and just peace will never come about, until most Israelis realize that they are following and supporting the wrong side.