Aharon Barak: Jews want equality, and to kick Arabs out
Former Supreme Court president criticizes human rights situation in the 'occupied territories', says it indirectly effects situation within Israel and warns, 'If we don’t find a way to live in peace with the Arabs, we won't find a way to live in peace with ourselves'
Speaking at a New Israel Fund legal conference at the Rabin Center in Tel Aviv, former Supreme Court President Aharon Barak said, "The situation of human rights in the occupied territories is problematic, and this situation has an indirect effect on human rights in Israel."
Barak, who said he is a "big believer in a state of all its citizens", while maintaining its Jewish character, criticized the general Jewish public.
"If you ask a Jew whether he supports equality with the Arabs, he will say: 'Certainly', and if you ask if he supports kicking all the Arabs out of here, he will say: 'Certainly'. He sees no contradiction between the two," Barak said.
The former Supreme Court president stressed that the situation of human rights in Israel is not satisfactory. "We have reached some achievements, but our tools are very limited, and the situation today is not sufficient.
"When one thinks about human rights in Israel, one must also think about human rights in the occupied territories. Everyone knows about the situation there, and I hope the solution doesn't come from the Supreme Court," he said.
Barak went on to say, "I remember the problems that were brought before me in my 20 years as a judge, when my line of thought was always administrative, how much power do the administrative bodies in the territories have?
"With time, as my knowledge of international law increased, my outlook began to change – instead of talking about what is allowed and what is forbidden for Israeli forces, I thought about the rights of the people there: What rights they deserve.
"This change, I think, also occurred within the Israeli society. The narrative is no longer about its power or effects, but is a combination of these things along with the rights of the civilians in the occupied territories."
Regarding minority rights within the Green Line, Barak said there is still much to be done: "On the one hand we are a Jewish democratic state and I do not want to give that up – otherwise I would have stayed in the United States.
"On the other hand, I am a big believer in a state of all its citizens. The Arab citizens deserve the same rights that the Jews deserve. While a Jew does have the initial right of immigrating to Israel, once he gets here, his rights should be equal to the Arab's rights.
"We still have not worked this issue out and I don't think there is such a conflict between the two approaches. I don't think it's either/or, we can have them both simultaneously. If we don't find a way to live in peace with the Arab minority in the country, we will not find a way to live in peace with ourselves," he warned.