Oded Revivi is the former Chief Foreign Envoy of the YESHA Council, the official umbrella organization representing the Israeli communities of Judea and Samaria. He is also the mayor of Efrat, a local council in Judea with a population of approximately 13,000 people. The author interviewed Mayor Revivi in February 2020 on President Trump’s Deal of the Century proposed peace plan. The author now interviews Mayor Revivi on the new Israeli government, Israel’s relations with the US under the Biden administration, and the current situation in the Middle East.Exclusive interview with journalist Steve Postal
Steve Postal: The new Israeli government sworn in on Sunday is a unity government of many faces. How will this government be different from Prime Minister Netanyahu’s government as far as relations with the United States, building in Judea and Samaria (commonly known in the west as the “West Bank”), and Israel’s policies towards Iran and the Palestinians?
Mayor Oded Revivi: The new government has yet to publish its policies on these issues, so it is difficult to predict their views and achievements. Time will tell.
The incoming government is comprised of a variety of different parties that traditionally held contradicting views. Regardless, these parties have managed to come to an agreement and form a coalition. They have decided to work together on issues of agreement, while not focusing on areas of disagreement. But there are many issues of disagreement on which Israel must act.
The makeup of the government poses other unique challenges. Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s party only represents five percent of Knesset members, and all the other parties are small as well. Each party now has the power to veto decisions.
Postal: The Ra’am party, which is an Islamist, anti-Zionist party, will now be in this government. Do you anticipate this being a problem for Israel in any way?
Revivi: A coalition with Ra’am is concerning for the Israeli public. The Arabs in Israel are entitled to representation in the government that can reasonably address the civil issues that affect the Arab population. That being said, when Israel is threatened by terrorism, some members of Knesset might find themselves with competing interests. This is likely to be a consistent challenge for the new coalition.
Postal: How do you see the Biden administration as different from past administrations as far as Israel’s relationship with the United States? Where do you think the US-Israeli relationship is heading?
Revivi: I believe the main concerns of the Biden administration are internal American issues. This is legitimate and fair for a new president. But America still has responsibilities around the world. The Biden administration can’t afford to ignore international affairs, as other world powers will quickly fill the vacuum.
The Biden administration is focused on the Iran nuclear deal and rehabilitating the Palestinian Authority’s diplomatic standing, but has yet to clarify its policies on Israel. The Biden administration’s long delay in nominating an ambassador to the State of Israel will harm the United States’ ability to be a major influence in this region. While the Biden administration may have been waiting for Israel to form a government, I hope that the US now remains an active and positive force in the region going forward.
Postal: Do you see the cease-fire with Gaza holding? What do you think is the long-term solution to Hamas’ war with Israel?
Revivi: The cease-fire will last as long as Hamas remains interested in a cease-fire. The last round of violence has demonstrated beyond a shadow of a doubt that Hamas is not interested in the welfare of Gazans. Hamas would rather invest in rockets and underground tunnels to attack Israel, than by building schools, hospitals, and factories.
Israel will continue to be threatened from Gaza until the people of Gaza elect a government that promotes peace with Israel. It is up to the people of Gaza to do this. For the sake of all our lives, I hope that Gazans quickly understand the benefits of peace with Israel.
Postal: What are your thoughts on the Iran deal negotiations?
Revivi: The Iranian regime has been a worldwide menace for too long. The free world needs to find effective ways to limit Iran’s power. So far, all attempts have been unsuccessful and unproductive. I have doubts about whether the current deal will be any different from those in the past.
Postal: What do you see as the future of the Abraham Accords (Israel’s normalization agreements with the UAE, Bahrain, Morocco and Sudan) under the Biden administration and the new Israeli government?
Revivi: The Abraham Accords were an excellent initiative of the Trump administration, and I am very pleased that the Biden administration is continuing to promote the agreements.
The Abraham Accords are instrumental in teaching the world that Israel can make peace with Arab countries while the Palestinian issue remains unresolved. I hope other Arab countries follow, which will send a clear message to the Palestinians that they have so much to gain from this type of agreement.
Postal: You were part of the Israeli team that consulted with the Trump administration on the parameters of peace between Israel and the Palestinians. Why were President Trump’s efforts to broker peace not successful?
Revivi: Unfortunately, sometimes the loud minority dictates the tone and controls the argument of the sane, silent majority. Among the Israeli right and left, and among the Palestinians, there were extremists who didn’t want the compromise to succeed. They did not allow the peace plan to move forward. It is truly a shame because the plan was quite original in its vision and parameters. We now have to wait and hope that another original idea will succeed in bringing the two parties to an agreement.
The author would like to thank Mayor Oded Revivi for participating in this interview.