Batsheva Sobelman
The Los Angeles Times (Interview)
April 17, 2010 - 12:00am

Avinadav Begin, 36, comes from one of Israel's most famous political families. His grandfather Menachem Begin, as prime minister, signed the historic peace treaty between Israel and Egypt; his father, Benny Begin, a minister without portfolio in the current government, opposes a Palestinian state.

The latest Begin to make a splash, Avinadav has written a book titled "The End of Conflict," which urges people to delve deep into the roots of conflict and reject external trappings of identity. He credits his parents with doing an "excellent job" of raising their children as thinking individuals. (And no, he doesn't want to go into politics.)

You come from one of Israel's most known political families, yet your own positions seem very different from those of your father and grandfather. How did you turn out this way?

Yes, you could say my positions are different from those of my family. They are also different from those of billions of other people among whom I live, and some of these are my family.

Do you wish people could see the book without seeing your name?

Look, you wouldn't be calling to interview me about my book without the name, and perhaps there would even be no book in the first place without it. It is the name of my family, I will not hide from it, but I myself am who I am.

In your book, you argue that the root of the conflict is the psychological human need to belong to frameworks that inevitably wind up dictating violence, and that recognizing this ends the conflict. Is that correct?

This is only part of it. Before examining people's need for collective identity, we must first be looking at how we perceive reality through the social and biological conditioning that prevent us from seeing reality as it is. . . . It is something deeper than national or collective identity.

You urge people to change their need for belonging and identity, but this is a very deep need. Can the human soul really be changed in a way that will obviate this and all conflict?

There really is no other way. Any other way leads not only to continuation of conflict, but to a constant escalation. Conflict isn't a static state; it escalates until becoming terminal. We are in a different place in the conflict than we were 100 years ago. We don't really resolve conflicts; we establish deterrence. Deterrence is an interesting idea. . . . We saw in 1945 what two nuclear bombs are capable of. But we keep making more . . . and more powerful ones. For now there may be deterrence. But someone radical enough who thinks it is worth his while and perhaps the way to secure his place in heaven too will ultimately use it, and the framework will fall apart. We are in a state of escalation.

The name of the book suggests you have a solution to the conflict. Do you?

Not in the sense that you can use the book, or any other, as a manual for assembling a solution to conflict as though it were a piece of furniture from IKEA. I suggest taking a deep and serious look at the roots of the conflict that are first and foremost within us. . . . We look to America for solutions, Jews look to the Bible, Muslims to the Koran, Marxists to Lenin or Marx and so on.

Comments you made in interviews about the flag, for example, and your identity as a Jew and Israeli, provoked strong reactions in Israel. Were you surprised, bothered by them?

Some were misquoted. I did not say I refused to stand up for the national anthem, for example. I respect people singing the national anthem everywhere. When people stand up to sing the national anthem in France, I too stand, out of respect for them. I do the same here. Regarding the flag, there are many who do not wave flags here for many different reasons and no one makes a big deal out of it.

You were also quoted as saying that your grandfather Menachem Begin did not make peace. That too provoked reactions. But he did sign a historic peace accord with Egypt; he must have achieved something. Was he wrong?

My grandfather did what statesmen do worldwide: They make agreements. Sometimes these agreements are a strategic alliance, sometimes they are a decision to make peace, or war. But the true, long-term meaning of these isn't a lasting one. In the test of history, such peace is not true peace in the full sense of the word but rather a timeout between wars. This kind of peace has strategic or economic significance, but it does not make mankind flourish or bring true human prosperity or closeness.

My grandfather signed such a peace agreement with Egypt. . . . But when the day arrives and interests press, this peace, like any other of its kind, will fall apart, whether it takes 10 years or 300. In the meanwhile, a few generations will go by without war, and some see in this a good enough thing. But if we are truly concerned about caring not only for ourselves and our children but humanity at large, we must aspire farther than this.


American Task Force on Palestine - 1634 Eye St. NW, Suite 725, Washington DC 20006 - Telephone: 202-262-0017