BRIAN LAMB, HOST:
Glenn Frankel, why the title "Beyond The Promised Land"?
GLENN FRANKEL, AUTHOR, "BEYOND THE PROMISED LAND: JEWS AND ARABS ON A HARD ROAD TO A NEW ISREAL": Well, Brian, the
original promised land, as you know, was promised by the God of the Old
Testament to the Jews, and the state of Israel became the Jewish homeland and,
in a sense, the fulfillment of that promise, in a way. But it's a very--the
original promised land, if you will, is almost an ideological concept. What
we've seen, I think, in Israel over the last few years and what my book really
is about is the change in Israel from that small, ideological garrison state
under siege, that little socialist state that we all remember from the days
of, you know, seeing the movie "Exodus" and reading about Golda Meir, to a
much more modern, prosperous, bourgeois, if you will, democratic state, a
state that's moved beyond the old ideology, that's moved into a much different
future. And to capture that beyond the promised land is the sense of movement
from the old to the new. That's what I was trying to do.
The subtitle, which is "Jews and Arabs on a Hard Road to a New Israel," also
captures, I think, the pain and difficulty of this process because it's not a
simple process. There's a lot of bloodshed, and there's a lot of problems
that have come and that--that are still to come, but what I'm trying to sum up
is that sense of movement, that Israel is a much different country today than
the one we knew before.
LAMB: Where did this photograph come from on the cover?
FRANKEL: Well, Simon & Schuster selected it. It's from an alleyway in
Jerusalem, and it depicts really very traditional Arabs and very traditional
Jews passing each other. The Jews are on their way to prayer at the Western
Wall. The Arabs are probably just doing their business. It--it--it deals in
symbols really; the symbols of the two people occupying the same small bit of
space--the claustrophobia, if you will, of Israel. People often forget that
the whole of Israel a--and the West Bank and Gaza Strip could fit into the
size of the state of New Jersey, you know. So that sense of two peoples
trying to come to terms with each other, struggling over the same small strip
of land with very few resources. God didn't smile on that portion of the
Middle East. There's no oil there. There's nothing there but symbols and
sand, and so the picture, I hope, captures just a little bit of that sense.
LAMB: When did you first go to Israel?
FRANKEL: I first went there in 1970. I was a college junior going into
my senior year actually, at Columbia, and I had a friend who dropped out of
school and had moved to a kibbutz in Israel and was working there, and he
invited me to come for the summer. So for a variety of reasons, I picked
myself up and went there. A--my future wife also went to Israel that summer.
We met up on this kibbutz way in the north of Israel, kibbutz Gonin. It was
located right on the lip of the Golan Heights.
This was the area that the Syrians had controlled until 1967, and they had
often rained down bombs and sometimes taken potshots at the shepherds who
worked the fields for this kibbutz. After the Six-Day War in '67, this area
suddenly became part of occupied territory. It became--the Israels controlled
it, and so the Syrians were off the hills. And Gonin, this little kibbutz
that had been under siege for all this time, suddenly was prospering. So I
spent a--a wonderful summer, learned a lot about Israel, also learned a lot
about the security issue, if you will, and that--in 1970, that particular
Israel is where--where I start out from.
LAMB: What's a kibbutz?
FRANKEL: A kibbutz is a communal, originally agricultural collective.
They were started at the beginning of the 20th century by some of the early
Socialist Zionist pioneers who came to what was then Ottoman-controlled
territory. They set up these communities. They were little idealistic
collectives, the forerunner of things that happened in Communist China and in
the Soviet Union later. And they thrived in and of themselves for many years,
and they became--even though they never occupied more than 3 percent, 4
percent of the Israeli economy, they became a symbol, if you will, for that
old plucky little Zionist state that made the desert bloom. And so when I
went there in 1970, of course, the kibbutzniks were still at the height of
their powers. The kibbutzniks, even though they were only 3 percent of the
population, contributed to many of Israel's heroes, people like Moshe Dayan.
Many of the leaders of the Israeli army came from the kibbutz movement. They
had an influence all out of proportion to their actual size. And one of the
stories of Israel, I think, over the last 20 years and one of the stories that
I try to tell in my book is how the importance of the kibbutz changed; how the
kibbutz itself faded as Israel changed from a socialist country. As the
socialist economy begin--began to unravel, the kibbutzim and their power also
began to unravel.
I tell a particular story about somebody who I've known for 24 years, a guy
named Hyam Goran, who was a kibbutznik--really the archetype of this kind of
guy. You know, he was a war hero, he was an accomplished man. He ran
the--the orchard on the kibbutz at age 23. This was the kind of get-it-done,
do-it-right kind of Israeli who I admired so much. And Goran went through
enormous changes over this time. In 1973, he suffered from shell shock,
basically, during the Yom Kippur War, which, as you know, for Israel was a
much less successful conflict than the earlier one.
The kibbutz began to feel very claustrophobic to him, and he--eventually,
after many, many years, he left the kibbutz. He took his family and he moved.
He--he--he built a house. He entered the--the--the free enterprise world, if
you will, and left the--the home of the kibbutz, and his story is part of the
story, I think, of modern Israel.
LAMB: Define three things: the word kibbutz, kibbutzim and kibbutznik.
FRANKEL: All right. I got to remember I'm talking here to a--to a much
broader audience than I usually do. Kibbutz is the name--the Is--the Hebrew
name for that small originally agricultural collective, where a group of
people would live in a community, they would share property. Their children
sometimes would sleep in a joint communal area in bunk beds. It was the
socialist ethic taken to its--you know, to its highest extreme, if you will,
to its greatest value.
Kibbutzniks are the people who lived on these kibbutzim. Kibbutzim are the
plural of kibbutz. There's something like 300 kibbutzim in Israel, and the
kibbutzniks are the members of these various collectives. They've--thrown in
together. They don't have private property or private savings. This was the
original ideal. And I have to add, this picture--this picture, really the
snapshot of the old Israel, has changed dramatically.
The kibbutzim these days--many of them have private property. Many of their
members even are beginning to earn a salary. That original socialist ethic is
dying. Some of these kibbutzes are still very successful. They're doing
high-tech now instead of orchards. You know, they've got factories. Many of
the other kibbutzim have been less successful, and they are struggling along
and they've become a remnant, if you will, of the old socialist Israel that I
think is dying.
LAMB: Why did you go in the first place back in 1970? What wa--where were
you living and what was it that took you to a kibbutz?
FRANKEL: Well, I was, as I say, between junior and senior year at
Columbia University in New York, and--and you'll recall, those were pretty
momentous times in the United States. The Vietnam War was raging. Columbia,
itself, had been in the news a couple of times because students had shut down
the university. A lot of people were looking--and especially American Jews
like myself, I think, were looking at Israel to see if it might be a s--a--a
second home or might be even a replacement home. They were looking for
idealism. They were looking for a country that still knew what it--where it
was going and what it was about. The United States was riven with conflict.
Israel seemed much more organized in that sense, much more idealistic. Some
of my very best friends went there and stayed, and some of the friends I've
made over the years in going back to Israel are people of that same generation
who went then.
I found Israel to be an enormously interesting country, but I found the same
kinds of conflicts there that I'd found in the United States. I could easily
see Israel having been through one war and that there were going to be more
wars and that myself and my children would be caught up in conflict there just
like I thought I might be caught up in it in the United States. So I saw no
panacea there for me personally, but I did see a very idealistic,
well-organized country that was trying to become something. And that
country's gone through e--as I say, enormous changes since then.
Three years later in the Yom Kippur War, Israel almost lost. The Egyptians
and the Syrians came over, and Israel had to fight for its life. And that
took away some of that optimism, perhaps some of the arrogance of Israel. The
occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, which began in 1967, which put
under Israeli control something like a million Palestinians--that began to
grind away at Israel. And for 20 years the occupation went on with very
little change. The status quo, if you will, stagnated. And the Israel that I
came back to as a journalist, first, in 1984 but then as the Jerusalem
correspondent for The Washington Post in 1986, was a very different country
than the one I'd--I'd come to in 1970.
LAMB: What did you get your Pulitzer Prize for?
FRANKEL: I came back in '86. I watched the sort of stagnant status quo
unfold for a couple of years, and I almost--you know, I'd--I'd come from
Southern Africa, I have to say. I'd been there for The Washington Post
between '83 and '86. And when I'd left South Africa, there was an uprising
going on there. Blacks in South Africa were rising up against the white
government. I got to Israel, and it's almost like I'd got off the wrong--at
the wrong airport. I had expected Israel to be a very lively, vibrant place
with a lot of changes going on, and, in fact, it seemed rather stagnant to me,
as I said. But then in late '87 an uprising began in the Gaza Strip and the
West Bank, an uprising that a--even though the histories of South Africa and
Israel are very, very different, the uprising had a sort of similar dynamic to
These were young kids in the occupied territories, young Palestinians who were
rebelling not only against the Israeli military occupiers, but they were
rebelling against the Arab world, which had never come to their deliverance.
They were rebelling against the Palestine liberation movement, which was
supposedly their national representative but, again, had never come to deliver
them from occupation, from the humiliation of it. And, in some ways, they
were rebelling against their own parents.
So I got into this process of writing about something that I'd seen before in
Southern Africa. Journalism's a marvelous thing. You stay close to the
ground. You can write about people and write about places. You can see the
developments a step at a time. You don't have to--to--to sketch broad
overgeneralizations. You really can take it as it comes. And because I felt
a little more comfortable with this process, having been through a similar one
in Southern Africa, I stayed very close to the ground all through '88.
I won the Pulitzer for the writing that I did about the Intifadah, and I won
it specifically for stories that I wrote where I went back over ground--you
know, places where we'd done quick news stories, but where a lot of things had
been left unresolved. I didn't know what had really happened in a lot of
these places or, more importantly, why it had happened, so I spent a lot of
time going back. I went back to a village where an Israeli girl was killed in
April '88 to piece together what exactly had happened in this Palestinian
village with this incident. Several other times, went back at stories, and at
the end of '88, the Intifadah had been basically the biggest story of the
year, so when the Pulitzer committee got around to choosing, they looked at
LAMB: Where's your hometown originally?
FRANKEL: Well, I was born in the Bronx, but I was raised in upstate New
York in Rochester, New York.
LAMB: Are both of your parents Jews?
FRANKEL: Both of them are Jews, yes, and New York Jews to begin with.
LAMB: What--you know, religious Jews or Orthodox, Reform, conservative?
Where did you fit in all that?
FRANKEL: Well, Reform, but really, you know, very much in the mainstream
of American Jewry, which is just secular. My folks grew up--are--are second
generation Americans--or third generation. You know, the--the--their
ancestors came from Russia. They escaped the Bronx in the same way that their
ancestors escaped the--the--the Jewish ghettos of Eastern Europe, and they
moved to Rochester, New York, to start their life there--their--their grownup
life there. They got away from their parents and away from the Jewish
community; in a sense, from that organized, small, urbanized Jewish community,
out of the ghetto. So I grew up in a m--in a very secular environment. I
knew I was Jewish, and I knew that was important, and I knew culturally what
it meant. But in religious terms, it was never quite clear. And to this day,
of course, it's something you--you--you still never quite work out.
LAMB: The reason I ask you is that--when you read your book, i--you bring
back all of the different kinds of Jews there are living in Israel: the
Ashkenazis, the Sephardim--or Sephardi, I guess, you would call them--and then
the secular Jews. Explain those different groups.
LAMB: Let me--let me ask you first, though...
LAMB: ...how--how many people live in Israel?
FRANKEL: Well, we're talking about five million people or so, more than
four million of whom are Jews. There are also close to a million Israeli
Arabs who live in Israel and who have voting rights in Israel and are not
considered part of the Palestinian people in the West Bank and Gaza who are
LAMB: But if you lumped in all the Palestinians and--an--under occupation in
that area, what's the total number of people who live within the borders?
FRANKEL: Oh, everybody cons--together would be up towards seven million
because you've got just about two million Palestinians now in the West Bank
and Gaza, plus five million in Israel proper.
LAMB: All right. Go back to the four million Jews...
LAMB: ...and break those down as--into categories.
FRANKEL: All right. The Ashkenazi that you mentioned at first are
th--i--in Israel context, the original European settlers in Israel, the folks
who came from Eastern Europe. They are the ones who've been there the
longest. Many of them brought the socialist ideology to Israel, and they are
sort of the founding fathers.
The Sephardim, by the Israeli context again, are mostly the Jews from north
Africa and from the Arab states who came over after the founding of the state
in 1948. About a million of them came, and they changed the complexion of
Israel dramatically. They didn't have the Zionist ideology. They certainly
didn't have any socialist ideology. They felt they were forced out of the
Arab world after the founding of the state of Israel and they came as
refugees. So that dream of this small socialist, elitist country that would
build a sort of Marxist paradise, if you will, quickly had to adjust to the
reality of a million Sephardim, of absorbing a million people. I mean, it was
more than double the original population of the country so it was a major
feat. And it took many, many years for that to come about.
So there are those two basic groups in Israel who make up the Jewish
population, and I write about both of them. Most of the Sephardim, I think,
have been a real success story in Israel. I think they've had a lot of
success in being absorbed, but there is 20 percent, 25 percent who never quite
made it into the mainstream of Israeli society, who have been something of an
underclass in Israel. And one of the things that's been interesting in the
last few years was the rise of a political party to cater to that group, to
represent that group. And that political party has been very influential in
the new Israel and has been one of the key factors, I think, in moving Israel
forward. Most people don't believe in ideology. They're more interested in
pragmatic results. They're interested in prosperity. They're interested in
getting the conflict--they don't trust the Arabs. They don't trust them at
all, but they are interested in getting the conflict with the Arab states
behind them if they can so they can get on with having a more normal country.
LAMB: What's a sabra?
FRANKEL: A sabra is an original Israeli-born Jew.
LAMB: How many of the four million are in that category?
FRANKEL: That's an interesting question. I would say at this point it's
getting toward half or maybe a little more, because we're moving into new
generations, but the most important sabra of--of all is the prime minister,
Yitzhak Rabin. He was the first Israeli, the first sabra, the first person
born in the territory that now is the state of Israel to have been born there,
and he was also the first to have ever served in the Israeli army. Until
Rabin, all of the prime ministers of Israel were essentially Ashkenazim, who
had come from Russia, who had been born in--in pre-war Poland. And I'm
thinking specifically of Yitzkah Shamir, the previous prime minister. Both
these guys are in their 70s, you know, and they--they kind of look the same to
I mean, we in America look at them and say, `Well, you know, what's the
difference?' But there's a dramatic difference between these two guys
especially. Shamir, who was the Likud prime minister during most of the '80s,
during--and during the beginning of the Intifadah, was a great believer in
ideology. He felt you had to hold on to the West Bank and Gaza Strip because
it was part of Israel's birthright, because it was part of what he called
eritz Israel, the land of Israel. And he believed that if you just bulled
your way through with it and just hung on, that you could outwit your enemies
and even outwit your friends because you believed in something, you had an
ideological core, and they didn't. So that--Shamir was a ruthless ideologue.
Rabin, on the other hand, is a ruthless pragmatist. Here's a man who was the
head of the Israeli army in 1967 when they won a smashing victory in the
Six-Day War. He was prime minister in the mid-'70s for a couple of years but
a rather unsuccessful premiership, as he himself admits. He felt he had a lot
of unfinished business. So he gets back in power in '92, and he is
determined--ruthlessly determined to get the conflict with the Arabs behind
him. And so the guy you see on the White House lawn is the sabra, is the man
who's born there, the man who believes in getting Israel forward, not the man
who's carrying all the baggage of ideology and of the Holocaust and of pre-war
Europe around with him.
LAMB: How much American taxpayer money goes to Israel today?
FRANKEL: Today the fundamental basic taxpayer contribution is $3 billion
a year. That's $1.8 billion in military aid and about $1.2 billion in
LAMB: Have you totaled up how much American taxpayer money has gone to Israel
FRANKEL: Oh, my, I think it's--you know, don't hold me to this, but it's
something in the $80 billion to $90 billion range. It was low at the
beginning. American Jews, giving their own private donations, were
contributing a lot to Israel. That's a whole separate category, of course.
But certainly since the time of the Camp David accords, when Jimmy Carter
brokered that agreement between the Israelis and the Egyptians--and part of
the way he soothed that agreement and lubricated it was to promise greatly
increased aid to both sides in that. Since then, it's been a regular $3
billion package, and sometimes it's been more.
LAMB: You say American Jews give of their own accord $450 million a year to
FRANKEL: That's right.
LAMB: And then you tell a story, during the Gulf War, of a 48-hour visit by
American Jews to the middle of the Scud attacks. Would you tell us some more
about that and the differences between the American Jew and the Israeli Jew?
FRANKEL: It's one of the most interesting things that I found when I
moved to Israel. You know, I figured Jews in America, Jews in Israel--these
are brothers, these are partners, these are people who really understand each
other well. And one of the things I learned quite quickly is that like in any
large family, a lot of things aren't said, there are a lot of conflicts.
There's the good-looking brother, if you will, the Israeli, and the brother
who's prosperous and making money, the American Jew. And, you know, a lot of
things that--that--that they don't understand about each other. And the Gulf
War was one instance where you could see that very strongly. You had American
Jews sitting in their living rooms in the United States feeling great sympathy
for Israeli Jews and great anxiety over what was happening to Israel and
raising money to send to Israel. And meanwhile, you had Israeli Jews sitting
in their sealed rooms waiting for these Scud attacks, feeling great anger at
American Jews, feeling that American Jews had sort of left them on their on.
And I'll tell you, one of the ways that manifested itself was night after
night Israel television would show scenes of American Jewish students who had
come over to go to Tel Aviv University or in Jerusalem for a year, getting on
planes at Ben-Gurion Airport and returning to the States because their parents
back in the States said, `It's not safe. Please come home.' Israel Jews felt
And so at one point after the first Scuds had fallen and Israeli Jews were
feeling this way and expressing this kind of anger and hostility, really, some
of the American Jewish leadership decided that they had to make an emergency
mission to Israel. And they came over and they spent 48 hours and they
visited some of these Scud sites and they expressed great sympathy. The
problem was, of course, that for Israelis, this wasn't enough. They felt very
much that they had been left on their own, and they even resented this good
faith effort, if you will.
I--I have a specific scene in a town called Ramat Gan outside of Tel Aviv.
The Isra--the American Jewish leaders had come on a bus and they come and they
look around at the rubble and they express great concern, and the Israeli Jews
in passing don't for l--for the most part, don't even know who these people
are and kind of wonder why they're there. To me, that represented
the--the--the terrible gap that exists between Americans and Israelis, between
Jews and other Jews. And it's one of the most interesting conflicts, if you
will, and most interesting relationships that I try to explore in the book.
LAMB: What was the conflict between Yitzhak Shamir--And who was he
again?--and George Bush?
FRANKEL: Yitzhak Shamir was the prime minister of Israel through much of
the '80s. He was a Likudnik. He was a right-wing prime minister. He
believed strongly in ideology. He was a...
LAMB: What's a--what's a Likudnik?
FRANKEL: A Likud--the Likud is the right-wing party that after--that
came into power in Israel in 1977 under Menachem Begin, and it ruled Israel,
more or less, for 15 years and it moved Israel very far to the right. It
believed in holding on to the West Bank and Gaza Strip. It organized a great
movement of Jewish settlement in the West Bank and Gaza. And when Yitzhak
Shamir became prime minister, succeeded Begin in 1983, he continued with the
settlement policy. He continued with the policy that we can make things
happen. He refused to negotiate with--with the Palestinian Liberation
Organization, which he considered a terrorist organization and an enemy of
Israel. This guy was determined to hold on to the land.
Now during the Re--he was prime minister during the Reagan years. When--when
President Reagan, who had a strong, visceral, emotional commitment to Israel,
was president of the United States--and Israel had pretty much of a free
ride--it was a great time, a great relationship. And Shamir became premier
under that. He nurtured that relationship. Suddenly in 199--89, he gets
George Bush and Jim Baker. George Bush becomes president and Jim Baker is the
secretary of State. And these guys are much more ruthlessly pragmatic.
They're not so much interested in nurturing Israel. They are interested in
results in the Middle East. And you'll remember the Intifadah had started.
Shamir himself, despite his hard-line, had decided that he needed to velo--to
develop some sort of peace plan. I think he had the full expectation that his
peace plan would never be accepted by the Arab world, would never be accepted
by Palestinians, and that he could go on maintaining the status quo. The Bush
administration pushed the peace plan, and they pushed Shamir gradually into a
LAMB: What was the personal relationship between George Bush and--and Mr.
FRANKEL: It stunk and it began bad. You have this--you know, you
remember George Bush, this tall Ivy Leaguer from Texas, if you will, you know,
who loves telephone diplomacy and loves to schmooze and believes in personal
relationships. And then you have this small man who grew--Yitzhak Shamir, who
grew up in pre-war Poland, who became part of an underground--a very violent,
radical underground movement in--in Palestine to liberate Israel from British
rule; a ruthless ideologue, if you will, who believes strongly in the state
and strongly in himself. These two guys did not hit it off from day one.
They met at the White House in April, 1989, and, you know, Bush asked Shamir
to suspend settlements, and Shamir responded with a cryptic, `Well, it won't
be a problem, Mr. President.' Now what did that mean? To Bush, it meant
that, yes, Shamir would be willing to suspend Jewish settlement in the West
Bank and Gaza if it were part of a peace deal, if he could get concessions
from the Arab states to go along with it.
But that's not what Shamir meant at all. What he had meant was settlements
are not the real issue. `The real issue for Israel is the fact that the Arab
states won't recognize our existence, that they still want to destroy us.' If
the Arab states would get over that, they wouldn't consider settlement to be a
problem. So what you have with this sort of cryptic, elliptical phrase, the
beginning of a conflict. Bush thought that Shamir had lied to him because he
didn't suspend settlements. Shamir thought that Bush had purposely put him in
a corner and didn't understand him. This sort of miscommunication begins in
1989 and continues all the way through four years of the relationship between
And, you know, it gets better, it gets worse for a time. During the Gulf War
Shamir did exactly what Bush wanted him to do, which is to say that when
Saddam Hussein started dumping Scud missiles on Tel Aviv, Yitzhak Shamir, to
everyone's great surprise, did not retaliate. He broke basically 40-odd years
of a--of Israeli defense doctrine which said, `Any time an Arab does something
to you, hit him back 10 times worse because that's the only way we can survive
in this region.' Yitzkah Shamir, for the first time, said, `No, we're not
going to do that. We're going to go along with what the Americans want.'
LAMB: Where's Mr. Shamir today?
FRANKEL: Mr. Shamir lost his bid for re-election in 1992, the same year
that Mr. Bush was defeated for the presidency. He's still a member of the
Israeli Parliament, which is called the Knesset.
LAMB: How big is the Knesset?
FRANKEL: The Knesset has 120 members, but it's very different than the
United States Senate or House in that those folks are not voted on in
individual legislative districts. They run on a party list. It's a
parliamentary system. And depending on what proportion of the vote their
party gets nationally, that's how many members of that 120-member list get in
LAMB: What's the breakdown between Labor and Likud and all the other parties
FRANKEL: The breakdown now is about 46 Labor members, l--well short of
a majority, as you can see, because you need 61 to have a majority, but it has
governing partners. Another left-wing party has about 12 seats. The Israeli
Arab parties have five or six seats. And there is a small pragmatic religious
party with another six. So the--the Labor, on its better days, can still
command something like 66, 67 seats, but most of the time it's drifting along
with a much smaller majority or just barely under a majority with 58 or 59.
The Likud lost badly in the 1992 election. The right-wing--the major
right-wing party only got 30 seats.
LAMB: Who leads it now?
FRANKEL: All right. Shamir, who's in his late 70s, retired from the
leadership after this electoral defeat, and a much younger man, another
prototype of the new Israel, if you will, the former ambassador to the United
Nations--and people may remember him. His name is Benjamin Netanyahu. His
nickname is BeBe. He took over as head of the Likud in 1993. He's a young,
45-year-old American-oriented politician.
LAMB: Went to school in Philadelphia.
FRANKEL: Went to school in Philadelphia, went to MIT, I believe, you
know, speaks perfect English with no accent. BeBe is, as I say, a harbinger
of the new in an interesting way. This is a guy with one foot in each
kingdom, if you will. He still believes in the old Likud ideology. He still
thinks all the Arabs are out to destroy Israel, so he still believes strongly
in having a strong fortresslike state that can resist. Yet, at the same time,
he's a great believer in--in the free enterprise system. He's a great
believer in the Americanization of Israel, if you will. He's a
tela--television candidate. He gets his message across that way.
And, you know, there's a contradiction there because one of the things that's
driving Israel forward, I think, into its modernity, into its post-Zionist
phase, if you will, is the fact that you can't have a country that spends 20
percent of its gross national product on defense and, at the same time, afford
to buy Japanese electronics and shop in shopping malls and have this sort of
modern bourgeois state that Israel's striving to become. So I think there's a
fundamental contradiction that BeBe and the right-wing in Israel have yet to
reconcile among themselves.
LAMB: When's the next election?
FRANKEL: The next election will be in '96. Rabin will almost certainly
run for re-election.
LAMB: How old is he?
FRANKEL: Well, Rabin is in his early 70s. He's 73 now, and he'll be two
years older by then. But he's determined to keep on with this peace process.
Rabin is the one guy who many Israelis trust to carry it out because of his
background as a general. They as--their faith in him has been a little shaken
in the last year or two, of course, because of the peace process, although
it's continued; has not really reduced terrorist attacks within Israel, so
people don't feel secure personally.
LAMB: You said that--we're talking about the Likud being in control for 15
LAMB: Trying to understand the--when you say i--call it a right-wing party.
Would the Likud Party members be in support of the socialist kibbutzes?
FRANKEL: No. Now right-wing--they were right-wing largely in the sense
of their attitude toward the Arab states and toward the peace process, very
hawkish, very suspicious of the Arab states. But also the elements that went
into the Likud Party had always wanted to break down the old socialist
hierarchy. You have to remember how much control the socialist hierarchy had
over Israel during the first 30 years of the state--the Labor Party, which
ruled Israel for 30 years, the--David Ben-Gurion's party, the founder of the
modern state of Israel.
LAMB: Who else led the party in those years?
FRANKEL: Golda Meir was another leader. Yitzhak Rabin was prime
minister for a spell; Levi Eshkol. These guys not only controlled the
politics of Israel, they also controlled a good deal of the economy. There
was a Labor federation that actually owned more than 50 percent of Israeli
industry. It's as if the AFL-CIO not only, you know, owned General Motors but
also owned Ford and Chrysler. So they had enormous concentration of power.
LAMB: Who ran the Labor federation?
FRANKEL: The Labor federation was run by people who basically were part
of the Labor Party hierarchy. They were Ben-Gurion's appointees. Ben-Gurion
himself, the original founder of the state, was the original head of this
Labor Foundation before the--before the state of Israel took shape.
LAMB: Was it ever an issue in this country that taxpayers gave money to a
state that was basically a socialist state?
FRANKEL: It was not a big issue in part because everybody sort of put
that aside and--and people didn't know much about it. American Jews, to some
extent, knew about it, but, you know, Israel worked very hard to propagate an
image off of it--sometimes a true image, sometimes not so much true--of this
sort of plucky little beleaguered state that needed our help and deserved our
sympathy, and the socialism was all kind of cleared aside. It was only in the
'80s really when the socialist economy really went out of whack, and if you
recall, 1.10 years ago, there was 500 percent inflation in Israel. The
economy was really falling apart--that the--that the United States began to
impose certain strictures on Israel and said, `Fine, we'll give you the aid.
In fact, we'll even give you some emergency aid to help get you through this
time, but we want you to liberalize your economy. We want you to make
commitments to open things up. We want free trade.' And--and the
cer--certain kinds of new reforms went into Israel in '84, '85 that eventually
led to the demise of the socialist economy.
LAMB: Go back to your own experience on the kibbutz. What was--what was your
reaction to a socialist environment when you lived it then?
FRANKEL: Well, you know, I was a young guy then, Brian. It looked pretty
good to me. It did seem that people had something in common, that they were
sharing an adventure, if you will, but that adventure didn't last very long.
In fact, it carried within it--Israel's very success as a socialist country
carried within it the seeds of its own demise, if you will. They took the
Golan Heights, for example, and suddenly, there was a cooler, better place to
grow apples and fruit which had been the--th--you know, the main economic
function of the kibbutz that I was on, so gradually, the orchard fell apart.
LAMB: What was your day like every day?
FRANKEL: You'd get up at about four in the morning, just before the sun
came up, and you'd trudge up to the--to the cafeteria and you'd get yourself a
hunk of stale bread and some coffee, and you'd head out to the orchard, and
you'd put on a warm sweater and you'd pick fruit, climb up on these machines
that they had.
LAMB: Who was telling you what to do?
FRANKEL: Well, the kibbutzniks. My friend Goran, for one. This
23-year-old guy who was, you know, just two or three years older than me at
the time, but he seemed like he must have been about 50. He had the wisdom
and you--you know, Goran said, `Do this,' and everybody snapped to it. He had
that kind of authority. So we would pick the fruit and we'd break about
10:00, come down, everybody would eat together. We'd have breakfast, and then
we'd go back up...
LAMB: Who'd make the breakfast? I don't--hate to interrupt you, but I just
FRANKEL: That's all right. Some of the orchard--some of the people who
worked in the orchard had that duty. Some of the women would come out and do
it because even though the kibbutz paid lip service to the idea that men and
women were equal in all walks of life, women made the food, women did the
laundry, women worked with the children and--and ran the nursery and that sort
LAMB: How many people lived on a kibbutz?
FRANKEL: Oh, at that time, Gonin must have had about 150, 200 people.
It was thriving. This was in the--in the heyday.
LAMB: How much money did they pay you or did they give you--or did they?
FRANKEL: No. We got a little pittance at the end of our time there so
we could go sort of tour the country, but the idea wasn't money. The idea was
the experience. We were volunteers, of course. We were working for free.
The kibbutzniks, themselves--the kibbutznik meaning the members, the
participants, the--the--who owned the kibbutz, if you will, all
collectively--they got a certain amount of money to allow them to travel.
They got money to allow them to go to town, but it was really--most of the
money was put in a joint fund. And then people who wanted to do something--if
a kibbutznik wanted to go back and get a university education, for example,
the money to pay for that would come out of the communal fund. The leaders of
the kibbutz, the elected committee, would sit down together and decide each
year who was going to get to do what, who might get to take a trip to Europe,
who would be on sabbatical, who would be the leader of the orchard for that
year. All this was done in collectivist fashion.
LAMB: When did it start to break down?
FRANKEL: Well, it started to break down, I would say, with the
destruction of the economy. As Gonin scrambled it went from having an orchard
to opening a factory. And, you know, they didn't exactly do a five-year plan
or a cost benefit analysis first. So they got caught up. The factory looked
like a good idea. They built wooden clogs for shoes and things. But
gradually, the economics caught up to them. The economics have scaled for one
thing. They were a tiny factory making a product and it wasn't--and
ultimately, they got caught in the market. What happened is, ironically, the
great prosperity, the--the urge for consumerism that started to seize Israel
in the late '70s and early '80s also hit the kibbutz--the kibbutzim.
And so in '81, to get re-elected, the right-wing government at the time opened
the floodgates and allowed cheap credit and allowed people to import
electronic goods without paying duty for a spell, and the kibbutzim also went
on a spending spree. They borrowed a lot of money at cheap rates. The--some
of them even entered the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange and started, you know,
taking--you know, buying stock and gambling on the market, which was zooming
at the time. Inflation was something like 15 percent a month. The bottom
fell out in '84, to make a long story short, and suddenly, these proud,
independent socialist entities became welfare clients, if you will. They had
to go to the Finance Ministry, hat in hand for a bailout.
It was like Chrysler coming to the American Treasury, and it was a sad and
almost pathetic moment because the Treasury was in hostile hands. And they
got some money. The kibbutzim were given a bailout. They were given more
than one, but they never were really able to pick themselves off the floor.
So you had kibbutzim where there were unbuilt houses, you know, l--you know,
very nice homes that were never occupied, the new dining halls that were
opened up. So you--kibbutzniks always used to eat together. The evening meal
was one of those communal moments. The dining halls, you know, were shut
down, and eventually kibbutzniks took their meals at home by themselves. So
you couldn't afford to do this kind of thing anymore. The--the dream--the
socialist dream of the kibbutzim and the socialist dream of Israel together
both gradually collapsed.
LAMB: I want to ask about this. The dedication of this book is to who?
FRANKEL: That's my wife, Betsyellen Yeager. She--as I said to you at
first, she joined me in Israel in 1970. She's been there with me every time
I've been there. She's someone who went to Hebrew language school for four
years when we lived there, taking Hebrew with newcomers to the country so she
learned another culture; you know, part of the culture that a journalist who
works with diplomats often and other journalists doesn't get to. We have
three children. We sent two of them to Israeli schools where they learned
Hebrew. We had access to Israeli society on a--on a very different level than
many journalists get to have. And without her and without that--without my
family being with me, it would have been a much less rich experience.
LAMB: How old are the kids?
FRANKEL: Well, the kids now are--two of them are teen-agers. The girls
who learned Hebrew and who still speak fluent Hebrew are 15 and 13. I've got
a son who was born in Jerusalem. He's seven.
LAMB: What's your wife do?
FRANKEL: My wife is the most professional mother I can imagine. She used
to be a schoolteacher, but when we went overseas beginning in '83, she gave
that up and h--she took care of the kids and took care of them in a very
profound way. When they were going to school in Hebrew, she--she made sure
that their English was kept up. She helped bring them through these
incredibly enriching but complicated experiences of moving into a new culture
and of feeling your way through it. And it was very rewarding for them and
very rewarding for her.
LAMB: Where do you both come down on all this now--your own--from your own
personal experience? Try Zionism. And what is a Zionist and where do you
come down on that today?
FRANKEL: Well, as you know, I'm a professional journalist. I'm an
American Jew. I have deep feelings about Israel, deep feelings about the
conflict. I believe very strongly--you know, my--my sympathies are with
people, not with movements. My sympathies are with the--the Israelis I met.
My book is a--is a story basically--the portraits of a lot of different people
and how this change struck them. So I root for them and I root for many of
the Palestinians who I met also. I think there's a great mainstream, if you
will, in Israel and among the Palestinians of people who want to get this
conflict behind them. And so...
FRANKEL: ...personal sympathies there. I treat the movements as things
to write about and--and trying to analyze.
LAMB: Should anyone be allowed to be an Israeli citizen, depending--de--not
making a difference whether they're Jewish or not?
FRANKEL: Well, Israel's struggling with that. You know, one of the
things of the last 46 years was that because Israel was constantly locked in
this existential conflict over its survival, it put off dealing with a lot of
other national issues. `We can't deal with the question of who's going to be
a citizen. We can't deal with the who is a Jewish, who are all these things.
We're worried--don't bother me with that. We're worried about survival.'
And now that the conflict with the Arab states is beginning to recede, now
that the issue is no longer Israel's survival, it faces a lot of questions
that it put off for a long time. And one of them is: How do you have a
Jewish state, how do you have a Jewish homeland and, at the same time, have a
secular democracy? And what do you do about those million Israeli Arabs? Do
you give them full citizenship rights? According to the Israeli Declaration
of Independence, that's exactly what they should have had and--and what
they've had over the years. But, in fact, in reality, they've had very much a
second-class kind of citizenship.
For that matter, what do you do about the ultraorthodox religious Jews who
don't consider themselves Zionist or part of the state either and who, you
know, refuse to serve in the army, for example, and feel themselves as
outsiders? Do you give them equal rights? How do you treat them? Who's
going to run the new Israel and what role does democracy play in it? And--and
these are fascinating issues, I think, Brian. These are things they're going
to be wrestling with for the next 20 years.
LAMB: Do you think it'll ever be an issue in this country about the level of
funding that this country sends to Israel?
FRANKEL: Yeah, I thi--I certainly think it will be. It's interesting,
you know--with the new Republican wave in both the House and Senate, they were
talking about cutbacks in all kinds of areas, and Jesse Helms wants to scrap
foreign aid. But the one place he exempted from that knife, if you will, was
Israel and Egypt. He said right off the top, `We're not going to cut aid to
Israel.' So there is still a consensus.
However, remember, I broke it down earlier. Of the $3 billion, $1.8 billion
is for military aid, and I think that's going to continue for a long time.
But $1.2 billion is for economic assistance. There are a lot of Israelis
these days who say, `Hey, we've got a prosperous modern country now. We stand
on our own two feet. We don't need that $1.2 billion anymore. In fact,
it--it's a detriment to us because it makes us sort of--it makes us look like
we've got our hand out. So why don't we reduce that--why don't we eliminate
that aid over the next couple of years, let's say, and get on without it?'
And I think you're going to see that happen over the next few years.
The--the--the economic aid will disappear. The military aid will continue.
LAMB: How many Russian--Russians--Russian Jews came in--since--with the late
'80s to Israel and what's the inflow at this point?
FRANKEL: The total number now must be about 600,000, and they're still
coming but at much smaller numbers than before. I'd say right now it's
averaging maybe 50,000, 60,000 a year.
LAMB: Would they be called Ashkenazi Jews?
FRANKEL: For the most part, they are. And they've sort of--the balance
now between Sephardim and Ashkenazim is about even because of the arrival of
these folks. They've had enormous impact on the country. You know, you--you
think, `Well, a half a million--how many is that?' But remember, in the
context of the size of the state, it's as if the entire population of Canada
made its way down to the United States over the course of two or three years.
They're very demanding people. They're not religious. They're not
ideological. They're results-oriented. And they were one of the factors that
drove out the right-wing government in the 1992 election and brought in the
Rabin government. Of course, the thing about them is if they don't get what
they want from the Rabin government, they're just as likely to turn around in
'96 and be a major factor in driving them out of power.
LAMB: What's the unemployment rate in Israel today?
FRANKEL: The unemployment rate in Israel has climbed markedly. It's now
close to--well, it's now 8 percent or 9 percent. It was in double digits two
years ago. That's another reason why Rabin was elected prime minister,
because Israelis felt their economy was not going exactly where they wanted
to. That's a huge change. You know, we've had that kind of unemployment once
or twice in our history. Israel never had it before. Israel, when it was a
small state under siege, had almost full employment. It had a sense of
egalitarianism and a sense of community that now is beginning to break down.
The fruits of the peace process and the fruits of capitalism are mixed, to say
the least. In some ways, they are changing Israel for the better, and in some
ways they're making it a much tougher place.
The egalitarianism, as I say, is one of the major things that's changing. You
go to the Israeli army--still these days--and you've got the head of one of
the country's largest computer firms who, when he goes to do his month of
reserve duty each year, he's taking orders from a taxi driver he knows, who's
the officer of his unit. That sense of, you know, `We're all in this
together' and--and--and that egalitarian spirit has been a fundamental part of
Israel over the years, and that's beginning to break down. The income gap
is--is widening. The unemployment rate is growing. That's one of the things
Israelis have to deal with.
LAMB: What's the average salary?
FRANKEL: Oh, it's about a third of the United States. I would say it's
still something like $12,000, $13,000, $14,000 a year.
LAMB: How much of that do people pay in tax?
FRANKEL: They pay huge, whopping taxes in Israel, still in the range of
50 percent I would say. It's gone down in recent years, but it was once 60
percent or more. But remember that there are still many of the vestiges of
the old socialist system. Education's free all the way through university.
Everybody gets a--a--a benefit, if you will, to help pay their mortgage; gets
a child benefit for the number of children you have, and the more you have,
the more you get. So there's a lot--the--the--the health-care system is much
more organized along socialist principles. So it's a much more--these things
are breaking down. They're changing but slowly, and as the income goes up
and the socialist system breaks down, you'll see it becoming much more of a
Europeanized or Americanized kind of an economy.
LAMB: Numbers--you told us earlier there were four million Jews in Israel,
and in your book you say there are 500,000 Israelis that have moved out of the
FRANKEL: Yes, that's right, over the years. These are people who have
left Israel. Many of them come to the United States or gone to various
places. Sometimes they're escaping socialism. Sometimes they're escaping
what they see as dead-end prospects or they don't want to serve in the army.
Some of these people are drifting back, of course, because in spite of the
disparity in income, there's a kind of quality of life in Israel that you
can't find in many other countries and even in the United States. Part of
it's the sense of community, the sense of a unique, shared enterprise. Part
of it is the fact that the weather's great and people can be nice and it's a
very informal society. They don't wear ties and jackets very often in Israel.
So if you've got the kind of personality and the kind of spirit that
in--that--that prizes this sort of informality, you can get a lot more of it
LAMB: How many--do you have any idea how many Jews there are in the world?
FRANKEL: Oh, dear. That's a good question. I would say we're up in the
12 million, 13 million range worldwide. The two biggest population centers of
Jews by far are the United States and Israel. There must be about four
million here or more, maybe five million and, again, four million there.
LAMB: Do you ever think of living there permanently?
FRANKEL: Well, it's very hard. I liked it. I have many, many dear
friends there. I'd like to go back and I will go back often, but I feel very
much like an American and I am an American and I write in English, and it's
important to me to do many things. I've really enjoyed--writing this book was
a very important thing for me to do because it got me to go back there and it
got me a chance to see many of these people who I had met as the correspondent
for The Washington Post and to see what had happened to them, and I loved that
experience and I know I'll do it again, but this is my home.
LAMB: What's your job now?
FRANKEL: I'm the deputy national news editor of The Washington Post.
I'm in charge of all the people on the national staff who are in bureaus
around the country. Everybody who has a suitcase packed sort of works for me.
LAMB: When was the last time you were in Israel?
FRANKEL: I was there in December of '93 to put together--to try to
piece--so just a year ago--to piece together this process, to try to find out
who had done what to whom and how the--these sort of secret meetings they'd
had in Oslo with the PLO came about and what Yitzhak Rabin's role was. And,
you know, when this peace process finally resulted in the White House signing,
Yitzhak Rabin, the prime minister, went there and, with a great grimace on his
face, signed this accord with Yasir Arafat of the PLO. And I tried to put
together what had happened, so it's been just a year.
LAMB: You say that the Gulf War and the Scud attacks resulted in a poll that
showed that something like 58 percent of the Israelis were ready for--I don't
whether you'd call it peace--but ready to deal with these occupied
territories. Was that a turning point in the war?
FRANKEL: I think the war itself was a real turning point. Israelis,
first of all, got a taste of what the missile age was like and what could
happen. And remember, these were Scuds. These were not very modern missiles.
They were thrown blindly from western Iraq, and yet they still hit targets
in--in Tel Aviv and they still craused--caused a great panic and terror, if
you will, among Israelis. And so they got a taste of what the future could be
if--if war was the future. That's pushed them forward.
They also got the sense that they weren't alone in the world because,
remember, they didn't have to go to Baghdad to defeat Saddam Hussein. The
United States did that for them. And so they got the sense that they
were--you know, that there were allies out there. And they also got the sense
that the Arab world was changing. The United States had had many Arab allies,
including even Syria, of course, one of Israel's great enemies. The United
States was now the one key superpower in the world. The Soviet Union was out
of the picture. And so even Yitzhak Shamir and the most right-wing of
Israelis could see the world was changing, could see they would have to deal
And I believe there's a direct connection between the Gulf War and the way the
Gulf War went and the launching of a peace process that led first to the
Madrid conference in the fall of 1991 where, for the first time, an Israeli
government sits down at a table with various Arab states and with a
representative of the Palestinian people, and they actually talk about peace.
It was a--you know, it was a horrible event, on one level. They argued with
each other, they fought, they feuded. It showed the gap between them in many
dramatic ways. There was a lot of childish stuff that went on in M--at
Madrid. But that started a process that I think will end inevitably to what
we see now.
LAMB: Who's your favorite character that you write about in the book?
FRANKEL: Oh, I love them all. The one I found most compelling, in some
ways, I have to say was Mr. Shamir because he comes from such a different
world than we do. The man born in pre-World War II Poland, the man with the
memory of the Holocaust sort of burned into his soul, who comes to Israel,
becomes part of a violent underground movement to liberate Israel, who
believes only in ideology and only in himself and who's willing to outwit and
outwait his enemies. To me, he became an archetype, if you will, of an older
Israel, of an older style of how you get through history.
LAMB: Paint a picture of what he's like. How tall is he?
FRANKEL: He's a--he's--he's a diminutive man. He's five-feet,
four-inches tall. He's a man who's never driven a car in his life. He's
never used a computer. The bu--the buttons on his push-button phone kind of
bewilder him at times. This is a man of the Old World.
LAMB: What's his original name?
FRANKEL: Yitzhak Jaz--I'll pronounce it wrong--Jazernicki. He comes from
Poland. He takes the name Shamir--he takes it as--first as--when he's in the
underground as a code name. It means thorn in Hebrew.
LAMB: The underground was called?
FRANKEL: Well, there were three underground movements, but his was
called Lechi. It was--and we know it somewhat as the Stern Gang. It was the
Fighters for Freedom of Israel. And these guys were responsible for
assassinations before World War II. During World War II, when the British
were occupying the territory that now is Israel, are fighting a desperate war
against the Nazis, these guys continue to fight the British. And they even,
at one point, send an emissary to talk to the Germans before they knew
the--the import of the Holocaust, if you will; then the enemy of my enemy is
my en--potentially my ally. They are ruthlessly determined to overthrow the
British, and Yitzhak Shamir was not just a member of this group. After the
death of its original founder, Abraham Stern, Shamir became the leader of this
little underground movement.
LAMB: But you--you've--you suggested at one point he had a gun in his hand
and blew some guy's head off.
FRANKEL: Well, he blew--I'm afraid he probably blew more than one guy's
head off over the--over those years. He planned assassinations. H--he comes
to believe that a ruthlessly determined group of people, no matter how small
or how beleaguered they are, can change history because he did it. And so he
s--clings to that. And you can imagine what it's like to have a guy with that
kind of background walk into the Oval Office and sit down with old George
Bush. And you can imagine the enormous miscommunication that went on between
the Ivy League man with the perfect resume and this underground warrior with
no resume whatsoever--with a secret resume. And so it's only natural that
these guys wouldn't see eye-to-eye from the beginning.
LAMB: How many times have you interviewed him?
FRANKEL: Oh, I've seen Shamir about 10 times, and--and he's the toughest
interview in the world. It's like--you know, it's like he's got his mouth
wired shut, and you're the dentist trying to work on him somehow.
LAMB: Is he married?
FRANKEL: He's married. He's--his wife was an underground currier during
this time, Shulamete. She grew up in the underground as well. Their son is
named the Iere. He's named after this first--is named after the man who
founded his movement. Very interesting story, though. His son served in the
Israeli air force for many, many years, and in 1988 he gets out and he joins a
private firm, one of the biggest firms, Scitex, one of the most successful
high-tech firms in Israel. And, you know, the father, the prime minister of
Israel, didn't understand. He felt his son was selling out. He didn't
understand that world.
And one day Iere sat down with his dad and said, `You know, what's going on is
I haven't given up being a patriotic Israeli. What I'm doing is my patriotism
now is in the private sector. There's a whole new country developing here,
and I want to be part of that.' And his father n--you know, his father went
along with it finally, but he never has quite grasped it. It's a world that
Yitzhak Shamir, that the old-line prime minister, will never really
LAMB: What's his appeal?
FRANKEL: His appeal?
LAMB: The--the father's appeal--I mean, Yitzhak Shamir. What--you've been
close to him. You've seen him.
LAMB: Why do people follow him?
FRANKEL: Well, people followed him because, you know, in a room full of
people who don't know what the future holds and who are uncertain about
themselves, he is the one certain man. He knows exactly where he's going. He
was, in many ways, an accidental prime minister. He only got the job because
Menachem Begin in 1983 suddenly resigns and--and--and retired from the public
stage. And the party scrambled around to find somebody to take his place, and
Shamir was sort of the least offensive to a number of people at the time. But
they didn't know much about what he really believed. It's only over time that
we saw the emergence of this ruthlessly ideological prime minister. His
appeal was that he knew where he was going.
There's a great scene in the book. In 1990, when the peace process is blowing
up and the Bush administration is really kind of conspiring with the Labor
Party, which was then part of the government to get rid of Shamir--to replace
him with a much more malleable Labor Party government--and--and Shamir loses a
vote in the Parliament, the first time in the history of Israel that a
government has lost a vote of no confidence. And he's on his way out, and the
younger guys in his party say, `We've got to get rid of this guy. We're going
to go into his office tomorrow morning and tell him he's through.' And they
all march in the next morning, and--and they look at this 70-year-old man and
he starts talking about how `We're not dead yet. We can win this contest.
We're going to defeat the Labor Party. We're going to defeat the Americans.
We're going to get back in power. Trust me, we're going to do this.' And,
you know, the guys--they never--they never had the guts to stand up and say to
him, `Yitzhak, you know, you've got to step down.' One told me it was like
going to your father and saying, `Dad, it's over for you. You know, you've
got to step down from the family business.'
He wins and they loses and ul--and they lose. And ultimately, you know, they
got back in power. Shamir was right that time. He--they call--you know, no
one called his bluff and he won. Later, in 1992, in his conflict with George
Bush and Jim Baker, George Bush calls his bluff for the first time. And after
it's over, Shamir does lose and he loses eventually the premiership.
LAMB: I--is it hard being an American Jew and a reporter going over to a
place like Israel and staying objective?
FRANKEL: It was very tough in a number of ways. In some ways, I'm afraid
the real problem wasn't so much that I was going to be too sympathetic to
Israel but that I was going to be too critical; that I would be too demanding
of people who I felt some kind of kinship with; that I would expect too much
out of them, more than I would expect from another country. So that was one
of my first problems.
But I found that, as a journalist, it'd be just such a fascinating story. And
one of the great things about it is that so many people are accessible. They
love to talk to you. You call somebody up, they see you the next day. And as
a journalist, you get to roam from a place like--you can be in the prime
minister's office in Tel Aviv one day, and the next day you can be in Nablus
in th--in--in the occupied West Bank at a Palestinian family's house talking
to a father about why his kid is out there throwing stones. You get great
access. You get to meet people and talk to people who would never, ever talk
to each other.
LAMB: Can you ever remember a time, sitting at the typewriter and writing a
story, saying, `I can't believe I'm writing this about my people'?
FRANKEL: No. I told myself early on--I made a pact with myself that,
yes, they were my people, but they were a different country. I was there to
explain them. I was there to write about what was going on. I had a job to
do. And you're sort of--I ha--I had been a journalist almost 20 years when I
first went there, and you fall into a pattern. It's--it's--it's second
nature. And I felt there was such a great human story there, the best and the
worst was there, and it was my job to capture it. And in the same way--you
know, my book began really as a sense that I wanted to write about these
people. I was originally just going to write a sort of string of portraits,
but gradually a picture emerged that I could put together. I felt a
commitment to these people to write about them fairly, to capture their
dilemma, to capture the things they told themselves and the things they
thought they were doing. And--and as a journalist, I think that was my
calling, and it never got to me to be a question of, `How can I write about a
fellow Jew this way?' I couldn't find any other way to write about them.
LAMB: About out of time. Five to 10 years from now, name a couple people
that have a shot at being leaders over there.
FRANKEL: Well, Netanyahu for one, who's now the new head of the Likud,
is certainly somebody we're going to hear from. He could be the--he will be
the Likud candidate for prime minister in 1996, and he could win. There are
some new guys coming up in Labor. There's a guy named Ehud Barak, who just
stepped down as the head of the Israeli army, and now he's going to get into
politics. He could be the Colin Powell of Israel if he's lucky. Another guy
named Haim Ramon, who's another Labor Party young guy. He's the same age as
these two. These three guys are going to be very important.
LAMB: If the total number of dollars going over there from the taxpayers is
fi--is $3 million today--$3 billion today...
LAMB: ...what will it be in five years?
FRANKEL: I think it could be the $1.8 billion in military aid, but at
the same time if they make a deal with the Syrians, you know, and get peace
agreements with their neighbors, the army's going to demand certain kinds of
things, going to need certain kinds of things. And actually the amount of
military aid could go up for a spell, so it might be $2.5 billion at that
point. We'll see.
LAMB: Glenn Frankel is our guest. The book is called "Beyond The Promised
Land: Jews and Arabs on a Hard Road to a New Israel." Thank you very much.
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