YW interviews MK Effi Eitam

(Monday, May 14th, 2007)

Click HERE to watch video interview.

Complete transcript available below.

YW: “Good afternoon Mr. Eitam, thanks for taking the time out of your busy schedule to meet with us at the theyeshivaworld.com.”

EE: “Thank you for giving me the opportunity to talk with your audience and viewers.”

YW: “Exactly one week ago at this time, the long awaited results of the Winograd report were released. The report stated “Prime Minister Olmert was responsible for the decision to go to war without sufficient deliberation and without a solid plan of action.” Olmert’s decision-making was called irrational, irresponsible, and lacking in caution. Mr. Eitam, as a citizen of Israel, after seeing the results of the Winograd Report, and with Israel facing the threat of a Nuclear Iran, do you feel safe with this man as your PM?”

EE: “The answer is absolutely no, and I think that every child in Israel understands that this man and his goverment cannot seperate between the lack of leadership of the Prime minister himself, and the lack of professionality [sic], responsibility and capability of the whole government. So they’ve all got to resign and new elections have got to be declared. We cannot really rebuild and recreditize [sic] the confidence of the Israelis in their government while these people are near (by) the wheel.”

YW: “Who would you support as candidate for Prime Minister – and why?”

EE: “I think it’s too early to say, but it’s very natural that Bibi Netanyahu’s name will come up, because he was a Prime Minister Maybe he learned from his mistakes. He’s more mature and more ripe to be a better Prime Minister but it very much depends on whom will be the team which will go with him, who will be behind him [corrected], and what kind of team he will represent to the Israeli voters. Netanyahu himself is quite a capable man, but as I said, it’s very important who will be his Minister of Defense, who will be his Minister of Finance, Minister of Education and Minister of Foreign Affairs.

YW: “Yesterday, a Kassam rocket was fired from the Gaza strip and landed in a gas station outside the city of Sderot wounding two people – one seriously. On Shabbos, a Kassam rocket fired from the Gaza Strip scored a direct hit on a home in Sderot. Boruch Hashem there was no one home at the time, but the event could have turned catastrophic should the family have been home. This morning a rocket landed near a kindergarten, thank God no one was there. Israel responded a short while ago with an airstrike. Mr. Eitam, as of Sunday afternoon – according to the IDF – more than 15 rockets have been fired at Israel since Friday. What is being done to effectively stop the Kassam rockets from repeatedly striking the city of Sderot and neighboring areas?”

EE: “As you have mentioned, Sderot and the Southern district of Israel are living by miracles. And although we are thanking God that nothing serious happened so far, we cannot depend on miracles, it’s not a policy. So, as far as your question is concerned, nothing has been done so far in the last one-and-half-years since we ran away from Gush Katif. Now it’s very clear that all this policy of unilateral withdrawal is a total failure. We got nothing in return. On the contrary, every square inch which was left by the IDF is used now to launch more hostility and towards the innocent Israeli people. So an operation in Gaza is inevitable. We’ll have to get in there to destroy the infrastructure, to take the weapons, and what is more important than everything we’ll have to block the leaking and smuggling of weapons from Egypt, from Sinai, to the Gaza strip, by taking full responsibility over the Philadelphi Road.”

YW: “One can never forget the photos of the Israeli Police beating the people at Amona, injuring dozens and dozens of people. All can agree that there is no democratic country in the world other than Israel where such action would be tolerated. Mr. Eitam, all remember those gruesome images of you being treated by emergency personnel after being kicked by a police horse.If you must put the blame on one person for this event, who would that be?”

EE: “I think that Sharon and Olmert together have got to be blamed for bringing that spirit and that corrupt political culture which allowed him to ignore the voices of his voters, which allowed him to ignore the law, which allowed him to ignore the spirit of democracy in such a brutal way and use the army and the police which have got to go after criminals and the enemies of the State of Israel, just to beat the best low-keeping [sic] citizens. It’s Sharon who corrputed the Israeli political system, and it’s Olmert who is his successor, now trying to follow the same policy. That’s actually the cause [?] of his total failure and his very low unrepairable [sic] popularity.”

YW: “We recently said at the Pesach Seder “B’chol Dor Vador Omdim Aleinu Lichaloseynu” – in every generation there are those who rise up against us. All can agree that there is a Hitler budding in Tehran by the name of Ahmedinejad. He has openly called for the destruction of Israel and “Israel to be wiped off the map”. He seems to be ignoring the UN sanctions by continuing work on his nuclear reactors. His claims that they are to be used for peaceful purposes are not believed by anyone including himself. Mr. Eitam, what is the Israeli Government doing to protect itself from this Fascist Hitlerite?”

EE: “So far we’re waiting for world diplomacy, for the effect of the world sanctions which are very likely to fail because of lack of determination and coordination. So we are coming near to a moment where Israel will have to defend itself with or without a world coalition, and take some military action in order to destroy both, the nuclear Iranian project and to bring down this evil government which is now in power in Tehran. It’s not a single man. Ahmedinejad is just the puppet in the front, but it’s a very big, strong and highly motivated system standing behind him. It’s important to tell the world – your audience, your viewers – Iran is building a nuclear bomb in order to use it for the purpose of total abolish(ment) of the State of Israel. So that’s what we have got to tell ourselves, we have to beat the drums, to leap the red lights everywhere we can. The world is still sleeping. And that problem, that threat, is not only towards Israel. If they will have weapons of mass destruction in their hands, it’s the end of the world order as we used to know it for a long time.”

YW: “Once we are on the topic of Iran, YeshivaWord would like to ask you a question. Here in the USA, the US Constitution allows us freedom of speech. There are those in the Chareidi world who agree with the establishment of the State of Israel, there are those who don’t agree with it. There are those who believe that once it has been established they should respect it. I respect the US Constitution as an American citizen, and I respect anyone’s opinion. One thing which is an undisputed fact is that Mr. Ahmedinijad is a Hitler. He is a man who would kill Jews without thinking twice. A few months ago, he held a Holocause denial conference in Iran which was attended by Jew haters from around the globe. In that group of people attending were a group of Jews who dress as Chareidim, and identify themselves on all major TV and news networks as representing Torah Jews. Do you feel that the state of Israel should publicly disassociate itself from these people? If yes, how?”

EE: “I think that… I don’t know to call them Chareidim or whoever they are, they are not people of Torah, because the Torah tells us and commands us to face evil and to fight evil, not to surrender to evil. And the fact that they go and participate in the Holocaust denial, in the palace of Hitler’s successor is a great shame. I don’t know who they are. I think that the best way for Israel and for the Jewish community here in America is just to ignore them. I think that they are sick people and they deserve total… to ignore them… not to mention their names, not to bring them in to the media, just, you know, sick people.”

YW: “Amir Peretz recently signed eviction orders for those who claim to have legally bought a house in the Arab area of Chevron. Do you feel his decision was justified, or do you feel that those living in the house should be allowed to stay?”

EE: “The house in Chevron was bought legally, and I think all what Amir Peretz is doing is just for his internal party elections. He wants to get some supporters among the Arabs. Most of the government, even this government does not accept this and will not allow it to happen. We cannot hold the stick at both sides. If we want everything in Judea and Samaria to be legal, this is legal! So you can’t say what is illegal will be taken off and what is legal will be taken off. Then people are so confused and they will not care about legality whatsoever. So, it’s Amir Peretz’s initiative nothing to do with what will actually happen. He’s so miserable, he’s so poor, nobody really respects him, that even in this case no one will hear what he says.”

YW: “Major General Elazar Stern issued orders last week barring Hesder Yeshiva students from serving in Golani and Paratrooper brigades. What is your reaction to these new orders?”

EE: “I spoke to the Chief of Staff before I came to America, and he told me that these instructions of Stern’s are not authorized, and that’s not what will happen. Elazar Stern has got his own interests which I cannot understand, to create all kinds of crises every second month between that very [unintelligible] part of the Israeli society who serve in the army and who actually raise the best commanders as we saw in the last war. So I don’t understand Elazar Stern. I spoke to him once and again, but it’s a kind of idea that he has fixed in his mind that he has got to destroy the program of Hesder. I don’t think the Chief of Staff will support that.”

YW: “The people of Gush Katif were evicted from their homes almost two years ago, yet they are still suffering. A committee has recently approved an additional 500-million shekel, equivalent to 120-million dollars for citizens of Gush Katif who were evicted from their homes during the Gaza disengagement of 2005. Politicians criticized the move by questioning why it took so long. They also criticized the promise which the government had made to establish permanent housing for the evacuees, many of whom are still living in temporary shelters. Mr. Eitam, do you think the Israeli government did enough for the families who were evicted from Gush Katif?”

EE: “Not at all. Not at all. And that is the greatest shame, not just of the current government but of all the Israeli political system. It’s a shame what they did… this last decision is the minimum they could have give(en), and it’s not enough. Those people are broken mentally and financially, and much more money will be needed in order to make sure that they will have a minimum standard of living. As you said, many of them are still living in temporary houses, no jobs, and (with) severe mental problems. This destruction of twenty-two flourishing communities, which has been prove(n) to be a mistake that brought nothing in return, this is a crime for itself. But the way they were treated after being evacuated is one the most dark stories in the history of the State of Israel. I believe that more money will have to be provided for this project, and we are working with that.”

YW: “Two Torah sages in Israel, HaGaon R’ Elyashiv Shlita and HaGaon R’ Shteinman Shlita have both personally signed letters to President George W. Bush asking him to grant clemency to Mr. Jonathan Pollard who has been suffering for more than twenty years in jail. It is reportedly the first time in history that Gedolei Yisrael of this stature have addressed a foreign head of state about any matter. It seems to the ordinary person that the Israeli government has totally forgotten about a man who was a past employee of theirs. Can you perhaps enlighten our readership by telling us what the Israeli government is currently doing to secure the release of Jonathan Pollard?”

EE: “Nothing. Nothing. Shamefully I tell you that… nothing. I spoke many times with Sharon when he was Prime Minister, and then to Olmert, but there was not any serious, real effort. You know, not even a minimum amount of confrontation – which is needed -  with the American administration in order to make that happen. Pollard is an Israeli hero. He sacrificed his life for the State of Israel and he is now sick and he should be released, both, for humanitarian reasons, and maybe above that, there is no reason to keep him in jail anymore. What he did was seventeen years ago, he doesn’t know any classified information any more, and it’s now beyond any shade of doubt that he and the information he gave to Israel was quite crucial and important for the security of the state as a whole. The State of Israel owes to Pollard a lot and, as in the case of the evacuees, the State of Israel forgets its heroes and leaves them behind on the side of the road too often. It’s a very bad testimony as far as what is the nature of our leaders.  It’s a shame!  It’s a shame!”

YW: “At last week’s Uzi Dayan organized demonstration speakers such as author Meir Shalev blamed many of Israel’s problems on the ‘occupation’ and ‘settlement outposts’. Do you now regret having encouraged people to participate in the demonstration?”

EE: “No, not at all. I think it was a very important demonstration. Meir Shalev was one of fourteen speakers, and by the way, even his speech, most of his speech was right to the point. So he had one or two poor sentences, you know, and they’re automatically used to speaking about occupation and to blame everything (by) the occupation. But it was a very important demonstration. The first time since… many, many years that the average Israeli is coming out of his home and participat(ing) in some non-parliamentarian activity, political activity. And I saw there 150,000 Israelis who really care about their country, about their democracy, and about the moral clarity of their leaders. First time in many many years that it’s not only the ketumim and not only the national religious people, it’s the whole society, the whole Israeli society that was represented there. I’m proud that I was there and I’m proud that I called the people to come. There will be more demonstrations, and I expect it to become stronger and stronger… in the end this government will fall.”

YW: “The return to Chomesh recently revealed a new settlement leadership that’s not reliant on the Yesha council, and the “Chomesh Now” movement does not coordinate anything with the IDF or police. Do you agree or disagree with their strategy of returning to Chomesh without coordinating anything with the IDF or police?

EE: “I don’t know who that leadership is, I don’t know them, and I don’t think it should be a principle not to coordinate with the IDF. I mean that those who call people to go to Chomesh, those people who take responsibility over the whole events, they must make sure, at least from the security point of view that the IDF is involved, and get enough information in order that they can provide full security. We don’t want anybody to be wounded or killed out of terror activity as a result of this lack of coordination. Of course we are civillains and we are allowed to demonstrate and we cannot and we should not coordinate with the IDF whether we will stay there or we will leave. That’s really something that the army should be out of the plan.

YW: “The towns in the northern part of the country were hit hard last summer during the second Lebanon war. Many homes were destroyed or damaged. What has the government done to assist them in rebuilding and recovering their losses?”

EE: “Here, quite alot has been done. Money and budgets have been given. Most of the physical damage in the north was repaired in the last year. But repairing the houses doesn’t mean that the security problems have been repaired. The Hezbollah has reinforced itself with new missles being smuggled, or not even smuggled… delivered! Openly! In daylight! …From Iran through Damascus to Lebanon. And if Israel will be waiting again with the policy that the missles will rust, and the policy of not having a preemptive strike, then nothing has been solved there. Israel must take action and must constantly attack and preempt those efforts of our enemies to build significant forces on our borders.

YW: “Presidential elections are coming soon to both the USA and Israel. Of the known candidates, who will you like to see as the next Israeli President?”

EE: “It’s hard to say. But I think that both Rabbi Lau and Ruby Rivlin are quite good characters. They both have the warmness and the [unintelligible] which I believe will make them good presidents. Who will win? I don’t know. I don’t want to see Shimon Peres being the next President of Israel. I think this man has caused alot of damage to Israel with his policies, with his ideas for many, many years. I wouldn’t elect him as my candidate for Presidency.”

YW: “From the know candidates in America, who would you like to see as the next US President?”

EE: “It’s too soon. I asked my people here, my friends here, what their opinions are and they said it’s too soon, and I agree.”

YW: “Any reaction to the election of Sarkozy in France, and how will this affect the relationship of France to Israel?”

EE: “I want to share with you a very bitter impression I had two weeks ago when I was in France, in the European Parliament, meeting. I had the feeling that Europe has totally surrendered to the domination of the Arab and Muslim culture and immigration. And Sarkozy being elected now as the President of France, is maybe some kind of a spot of light in this darkness, maybe he can wake up the French will to survive as a nation, as a culture. He might improve the relations between France and America, which are so very important, and for so many years have been contaminated with hatred which has no base, from the French and European side towards America and Americans, which I cannot explain. America made so much effort, and sacrificed so much life and money in order to defend Europe from Nazi Germany , from the Communists. And what they got in return, especially from France is hatred and, you know, cold shoulder. Maybe that is about to be changed. And anything that can support the coalition of the free countries, the free democracies, against the threats we are facing, especially from Iran, that’s good news. So I’m quite happy that he was elected. If Segolene Royal would have become… if she would have become President we could have been in much harder troubles.”

YW: “The right wing in Israel seems to be suffering from a lack of leadership. Do you see yourself as someone who can fill that role?”

EE: “I can be one among few who can, and who must become the leadership of the center right – or I would prefer to call it the conservative bloc -  in Israel. I believe that this leadership is now about to be crystallized. I will be there, especially because I am now the only character who has some, not some, who has significant experience as far as defense and security problems are concerned. It has been proven that my predicitions and my views were fully right although they were not very popular until a short time ago. And I will be there as part of a team. I don’t think that Israel now has any single character who can be THE leader of the country. It’s a combination of a group, of a few people. Yes, I will be among them”.

YW: “And the last question…”

EE: “Yes, please.”

YW: “What do you prefer to eat, cholent or shwarma”?

EE: “Salad”?

YW: “Cholent. Like meat and potatoes.

EE: ” Ahh, cholent! Cholent or shwarma… I will take them both.”

YW: “Thank you very much for your time”.

EE: “Thank you”.


8 Comments

  1. eliezer says:

    Yasher Coach, YW. Very informative and very well organized. Your questions were to the point – except for the “Gaon” “Ganov” fiasco – which was entertaining.

    You have stepped up your stature with this interview.
    Thank you.

  2. urbmase says:

    This interview is wonderful. This man and his responses remind me often of Harav Kahana, z”l. Very pointed, very direct, and honest. Thank you, YW!

  3. iliv2bhap says:

    we must remember that effie eitam will not be a leader of the israeli people bc he only represents a certian sector of the jewish political spectrum moshe feiglin on the other hand is the 2nd largest person in the likud party right behind netanyahu and wants israel to run in a jewish way for jewish reasons.

  4. Lawrence Melchior says:

    Effie is able to be a leader and will switch to the Likud party if that will be the only way he can move ahead in the Knesset. He should not be discounted. In addition to his ability to appeal to the frum, the secular, the kibbutznicks and the military sectors of the voting public, he seems to have financial backing from some of the wealthiest American Jews who will likely back his electoral ambitions.

    Mr. iliv2bhap, Eitam can restore Jewishness and attract a considerable spectrum of Israelis He is someone to watch and I love that the YW got this interview and asked such great questions.

  5. Blue Pinky says:

    iliv2bhap, while Feiglin is an influential member of the Likud party, he is very far from being the #2. He is not even a current member of Kenesset, and Likud has 12 seats.

  6. ondaroadtoboston says:

    Killa Killa Interview!
    Mamesh every question thought out & asked to the zach!
    Keep up the great work!
    Kol Hakavod!

  7. IMHO says:

    It is rather unfortunate that YW did not press on him to give his honest opinion on the Winograd report and indicate what he would like to see changed in the Israeli military structure and training. The very first question began to address it and then veered off to Iran and Olmert’s leadership.
    I served just after the infamous mishpatei givati back in the first intifadah, (for those of your readers who are unfamiliar with the cases look them up, MK Eitam featured prominently in them). I fully understood then and now what the security approach must be from a tactical and real world politic pov and was wondering about Eitam’s current stance on Israel’s security in light of last year’s dismal failure in Lebanon.
    Maybe next time.

  8. YZM says:

    Effie believes the Winograd report indicates a huge gap in leadership from the top, not form the troops themselves. He believes that Olmert was weak and was afraid of poll numbers had Israelis seen too much Israeli blood spilled in a ground incursion, and last year’s Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Dan Halutz was so wrapped in his own air force experience, he failed to see the forest for the trees.

    Effie believes that Israelis wanted a ground war that would have likely been harsher at first, but swift and decisive and would have rooted out the enemy and their weapon caches. As a general and one who commanded Golani, he believes that the troops were ready and willing, but they were fighting with at least one hand tied down.

    What he wants to see is a real military commander in place as Defense Minister, where Peretz was inexperienced and also weak, and that the IDF commander must be someone who can put aside hubris or branch-bias, if you will, and make decisions that are strategically correct, and not just fitting an expected paradigm.

    Effie truly believes that if Israel is forced into Lebanon again, it will be different and winnable. He knows the troops are ready and that Israel is emotionally able to absorb casualties that may accompany a ground invasion, for the euphoria and pride of an Israeli victory in the manner an Entebbe, Yom Kippur, Six Day, etc. Effie not only has emunah in Israel and Israelis (religious and secular), but has emunah in G-d not to see Israel’s fall. To back it up, he also has 30 years on the ground with a rifle in hand, being part of the troops and then leading them to victory time and again.

    As for the public perception point of view on Israel and its fighting style, he feels that protection of Israel is more important that what leftists and fundamentalist Muslim apologists think, and that a fast and decisive victory for Israel leaves less time and ability for wandering photographers and videographers to get the anti-Israel propaganda they seek. The airwar of last summer kept soldiers away, and left time for Hezbullah warriors to stage photos using collateral damage. In a ground invasion, the terrain is more volatile and less friendly for journalists, no matter how anti-Israel, who want to live also, will be less inclined to wander, looking for a staged photo.

    Maybe not a perfect plan, but it works.

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