Israel's Peace Groups Adjust to Current Conflict

Three weeks into war, Israel's peacenik community is grappling with their country's military operations in Lebanon. Michele Norris talks with Galia Golan, one of the longtime leaders of Peace Now. Golan is a professor of political science at Hebrew University.

MICHELE NORRIS, host:

In the three weeks since the fighting began, Israeli public opinion has been solidly behind the military offensive in Lebanon. Even anti-war organizations have expressed the belief that Israel is involved in a just war as it tries to defend itself.

Galia Golan is one of the long time leaders of a group called Peace Now. She's also a professor of political science at Hebrew University. She said the leadership of Peace Now is split over the military action in Lebanon between those who favor an immediate cease-fire and those who don't. Earlier today, I asked her if the bombing of Qana over the weekend might be a turning point.

Dr. GALIA GOLAN (Peace Now): It's very difficult to say. I would hope that it is, but I'm not seeing signs of that yet. There has been some criticism of the war all along, but the public seems to be still very much in support of the war. And I think part of the reason is that there, of course, are rockets falling on Israel, as well, and people sitting in shelters day and night for now almost three weeks.

Of course people were horrified by the attack on Qana. But I don't see yet a real turning point in terms of public opinion. And I'm not even sure I see a turning point in my own organization.

NORRIS: For people who do believe that this is a just war, are there concerns that this war will radicalize the Lebanese and somehow build support for Hezbollah?

Dr. GOLAN: Well, anybody who's thinking rationally does of course see that. I don't deny the objective. I think it's extremely important to stop Hezbollah, to disarm Hezbollah. They are a threat. There's no question about it. My question is A, how you go about it, and B, if what we are doing is in any way going to bring about that effect or that result or just the opposite.

NORRIS: So when you have these debates within your organization, for those who are sitting on the other side of the table and those who believe that a cease-fire is not possible unless Hezbollah is dealt with, what does that mean? What does it mean to, how do you deal with them and how do you contain them?

Dr. GOLAN: Well, I mean, if you ask about our own decisions, it means that basically we can't agree on a join statement. We can't agree to call out a demonstration. And quite frankly, if we did call for a demonstration, we would not have the numbers by any stretch of the imagination.

As to what we think should be done or at least what some of us think should be done, there has to be some sort of a negotiated settlement of all of this. The question mark is over when you call for this, and personally I believe that the only way we're going to ensure the fact that Hezbollah will not strike again in the future, even if it's pushed 30 kilometers away from the boarder, the only way to ensure that is to enter negotiations with Syria.

NORRIS: With the ideas that you're expressing, support for talks with Syria, support for immediate cease-fire, would you say that you're in the extreme minority?

Dr. GOLAN: I think when it comes to the population, absolutely. This is a small minority that speaks as I do. But if I look at intellectuals, if I look at other political scientists like myself, people who deal with the conflict, I'm not in such a minority.

NORRIS: What happens to the peace movement now?

Dr. GOLAN: I think the peace movement has been badly hit, frankly. I have been thinking all along that it might take just a few weeks and people would come out against the war and that we would have a better sense of at least where our own public is. That's not happening. I keep thinking that another day will go by and it will, and it could happen, but we've already been into this three weeks and it is a long time.

NORRIS: Galia Golan thanks for talking to us.

Dr. GOLAN: Thank you.

NORRIS: Galia Golan is the leader of a group called Peace Now. She's also a professor of political science at Hebrew University.

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