Open Zion

03.13.12

The Greater Israel Prize

The Israel Prize has been in the news a lot lately, especially since "Footnote"—the Israeli film about a father and son battling for it—was nominated for an Oscar.  Awarded each year on Independence Day at a ceremony in Jerusalem featuring the president, prime minister, Knesset chairperson, and Supreme Court president, it is Israel’s highest honor.  Past winners include S. Y. Agnon, Golda Meir, Martin Buber, Naomi Shemer, Yad Vashem, The Israeli Philharmonic…the people and institutions Israelis revere most.

Israeli politicians and their American Jewish supporters often say that since the Oslo peace process, the two state solution has become the consensus Israeli view, opposed by only a right-wing fringe (and, of course, by the Palestinians). As television host turned prime ministerial candidate Yair Lapid put it yesterday, “Everyone in this country knows what needs to be given [in a peace deal], and we all know how it will end.”

But someone forgot to tell the bestowers of the Israel Prize, who last Thursday awarded it to Rabbi Haim Druckman. In many ways, Druckman is a natural choice. During his eighty years, he has spent twenty-five in the Knesset, twenty-one as director of the State Conversion Authority, and a lifetime helping forge Israel’s most prestigious programs for young religious Jews: the Bnei Akiva youth movement and the Hesder Yeshiva program.

And how does this pillar of the Israeli establishment feel about the two state solution that “everyone” who’s anyone in Israel supports? Here’s what he told the website Walla! last year:

The thought of giving a piece of our land to others is horrible.
To those who talk about two states for two people I say:
Sure, many states for many peoples, but not in in the
Land of Israel. The Land of Israel is not intended to be
a state for another people…

The ad-hoc council that awarded Druckman the Israel Prize described him as “a unifying influence for all social groups...”  “All social groups,” that is, except for the two million Palestinian Arabs living within the green line and the 4.5 million more living in the West Bank and Gaza, most of whom are less than thrilled by the prospect of living in one Jewish state from the river to the sea. Then again, since of the more than 600 Israel Prizes awarded since 1953, Palestinians have won only three, the prize committee has rarely seen their view of Israel society as much more than, well, a footnote.