MKs try to block Tamir from putting Green Line into geography books

Right-wing parties unite in effort to block education minister's decision to order textbooks delineating the Green Line.

The education minister's decision to issue new geography textbooks delineating the Green Line caused a political uproar in the Knesset Monday, as MKs from the right-wing parties united to try to stop the decision from going into effect. Two weeks ago, Education Minister Yuli Tamir told the Knesset Education Committee that she planned to order textbooks for geography classes in elementary schools with maps that include the Green Line. The decision spurred a number of MKs into calling a secondary meeting of the meeting Monday to try and stop Tamir by putting the issue to a committee-wide vote. MK Zevulen Orlev (NU-NRP) led MKs from the National Union-National Religious Party, Israel Beiteinu, Likud, and Kadima Parties in attacking Tamir's decision as "political and not educational." Orlev based his argument against the inclusion of the Green Line in textbooks on a document issued by a ministerial body that convened following the Six-Day War. The document, which is dated November 1967, stipulates that "from here forth, the map of Israel will be demarcated according to the cease-fire lines without the armistice lines and the borders of the British Mandate." "The '67 government decision proves that the Green Line died then and there," said Orlev. "A cabinet minister should respect the government's decisions. The minister's decision has no educational foundation. This is a clear political decision and an attempt to emblazon the state borders of Peace Now in the minds of students and to turn schools into Peace Now branches." Peace Now secretary-general Yariv Oppenheimer responded to Orlev's statement by saying that the MK was disconnected from reality. "Orlev is burying his head in the sand and ignoring the fact that a majority of the Israeli public recognizes the existence of the Green Line and the need to establish a Palestinian state," said Oppenheimer. Orlev pushed committee chairman MK Michael Melchior (Labor-Meimad) to bring the issue to a vote. After consulting with a Knesset legal aide, however, Melchior announced he would not bring the issue to a vote, since Tamir had not been given sufficient time to appear before the committee and defend herself, and it would be unethical to vote on separate clauses without hearing both sides of the argument. Melchoir's decision was met with outrage by a number of MKs on the committee, who called it a "political favor" to Tamir, his party colleague. "If this management continues in the committee, I won't be a part of it anymore," said MK Ronit Tirosh (Kadima), former director-general of the Education Ministry. "The minister crossed the line between politician and professional. We wanted to strengthen the professionals in the ministry and to demand that she take back or completely freeze her instructions until she... explains to us what she means exactly." MK Ze'ev Elkin (Kadima) added that it was "a shame" that Tamir had "appeared in every possible media outlet last week, but didn't find it appropriate to show up in the committee today to defend her decision." Several hours after the committee meeting, Tamir appeared in the Knesset plenum to defend her decision to the Likud MKs, who raised a no-confidence motion over the issue. The Education Ministry argues that the Green Line has current significance, in that it represents the ongoing public debate over Israel's political boundaries. "You can't draw Israel's borders without bringing in politics. There are some things, like Gaza, that just require it. You can't help it that reality changes," Tamir said in her defense to the plenum. "We need to give our children the tools to make decisions on their own. We need to provide them with all the information." "The minister has mixed politics and education in an act of ignorance of state laws, including the Jerusalem Law and Golan Heights Law," the motion stated.