Professor Aumann: Cards stacked against Israel

Hebrew University Professor and Nobel Laureate says Israelis to blame for own missteps.

March 28, 2011 09:42
2 minute read.
Jerusalem bus bombing, March 23, 2011.

Jerusalem bus bombing FOR GALLERY 521 6. (photo credit: Moshe Milner GPO)


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Hebrew University Professor Robert Aumann knows a thing or two about strategy.

This Mathematician and Hebrew University Professor, who won the Nobel Prize in Economics in 2005 for his work on conflict and cooperation through game-theory analysis, believes the “cards are stacked against Israel.”

“I think our situation is not improving,” said Aumann. “And to a large extent we have ourselves to blame for it.”

In an exclusive interview with Inside Israel, Aumann lamented Israel's standing in the international arena and what he called the erosion of the centrality of Israel among American Jews.  He blamed a host of factors, ranging from Israeli leaders, a poor Israeli govt pr apparatus, an overly critical Israeli press and plain old, classical anti-Semitism.

The outspoken Aumann fled his native Germany in 1938 and immigrated to Israel from the United States in 1956. He says disgraced AP reporter Helen Thomas's recent call for Jews to return to Europe should serve as a wake-up call..

“I think we should be grateful to Helen Thomas, because she said out loud what people are thinking,” said Aumann, “and we need to be aware of that.”

Last  week Aumann addressed an Israeli Knesset caucus on the delegitimization of Israel. He is  troubled by the international media's recent indictment of the murdered Fogel Family of Itamar, as if being settlers justified the march 11 murder of this family of five, as they slept in their beds on the Jewish sabbath. 

In a study filled with piles of books, an open talmud and volume by Maimonides, Aumann has the countenance of of rabbinic sage. His slow, carefully measured replies are punctuated by deep, angst-ridden sighs, as if Israel's troubles weigh heavily on his 80 year-old shoulders.

He cites Israel's missteps negotiations with the Palestinians, and cites what he calls the disaster of the 2005 expulsion of Israelis from Gaza as playing into Palestinian hands in their quest for statehood.

Aumann says he does not  advocate a so-called Greater Israel and respects the rights of Arabs to live where they are living. But he stresses that the Jewish State hurts its own position by overemphasizing security and being drawn in to responding to the Arab narrative of 1967 while not emphasizing enough Israel's own historic presence in the land prior to 1967 and 1948.

“Our right to all of Israel is based on our ancient history and our modern history and our physical presence for well over a hundred years in all parts of this area,” said Aumann. “As long as the Arabs have been here, we have been here. If that is not the case – if we only came here, so to speak, after 1948 when we were not allowed in the territories....from the War of Independence only – then we don't have any right at all. We are simply colonialists.”

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