Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein presented a pessimistic but realistic, in his words, view of prospects for peace to the Rabbinical Assembly of the Conservative Movement's Emergency Solidarity Mission to Israel visiting the Knesset Wednesday.
"I don't have a problem with setting strategic objectives [for Operation Protective Edge] or with writing peace plans, I just don't know how to implement them. That doesn't stop some Israelis, though," he quipped.
Edelstein called for "peace projects not just a peace process" smaller efforts towards coexistence that he said will isolate Hamas, as opposed to "trust-building" steps that reward terrorists.
"If we keep trying to sign comprehensive peace plans that are based on nothing, we'll have another cycle of violence and another ad infinitum," he said.
When one of the rabbis told him what he is saying is depressing, Edelstein responded that he's being realistic.
"Hamas can become a political movement and will join peace talks and want two states for two peoples - eh, you know, I can say that if I want a Nobel Peace prize, but my mother is still alive and I don't want her to catch me lying," Edelstein said, joking that his mother's instructions to always be honest may have hindered his political career.
The Knesset Speaker also discussed the careful balance between not halting parliamentary activity and showing respect for the security situation.
"Not all of us [in the Knesset] are young enough to put on a uniform and serve in the reserves, so we continue in our work here to help the country," he stated. "Still, I don't want to see MKs in the plenary session shouting at each other [over the operation in Gaza]. It's like walking a tightrope."
In an apparent reference to Arab MKs who went on strike earlier this week in protest against Operation Protective Edge, Edelstein said "it's not so bad that some of the MKs aren't here."
As for increased rights and recognition for Conservative rabbis, conversions and weddings, Edelstein recounted that many Israelis and many new MKs have no idea what a major role non-Orthodox streams of Judaism play outside of Israel.
"I heard from some of them after they returned [from missions to the US] 'I always thought that most Jews are Orthodox and Reform and Conservative are just small sects, but it turns out it's not like that in the US,'" he said.
When the rabbis laughed, he added: "I'm not joking."
In order to change the situation in Israel, Edelstein told them to "work the floor and meet MKs. Some may not agree with you, and they have a right to their opinion. It's a process, and I can't guarantee the results."