With the announcement by Yossi Beilin, Dec. 16, that he will not run for reelection (March 18, 2008) as Meretz party chair, Meretz USA and others are just beginning to digest the news. Readers may link to our Website for a Meretz USA statement of tribute and a letter from Beilin discussing his decision. In the meantime, Daniel Levy, a close associate of Beilin since having worked together on the Geneva Initiative, writes in his blog about his “mentor”:
The Return of Yossi Beilin the Statesman?
One of my political mentors, someone I worked with in and out of the government in Israel, and a friend, Yossi Beilin, announced yesterday that he was standing down as leader of the Meretz party and withdrawing from the party leadership election to be held in March. Beilin explained that he would be supporting Haim Oron, known to everyone as Jumas, in the leadership race (against two other Meretz MKs: Ran Cohen and Zehava Gal’on).
“The ideological closeness and friendship with Jumas [Oron] dictated that I not run against him. I have had a principle for many years. I will not run against a comrade in my political path,” said Beilin. Most of the commentary has pointed out that Beilin did not look to be in a strong position in the leadership race, had not captured the hearts of his new Meretz party colleagues, and was unlikely to increase the party’s Knesset representation. …
There was very little time for Beilin, the daring statesman–brilliant, creative, and farsighted. One used to frequently hear the refrain that “What Beilin is planning today, Israel will be doing in 5 to 10 years,” for too long that quotation has been gathering dust. In his Foreign Ministry days Beilin led the belated effort to have Israel sever its close relationship with apartheid South Africa and pushed for the establishment of a governmental department to coordinate overseas development assistance.
Beilin is of course remembered for initiating the back-channel dialogue that was later adopted by Itzhak Rabin and became the Oslo Declaration of Principles, and for championing the withdrawal from Lebanon that was eventually embraced by Ehud Barak and implemented in 2000. Other Beilin projects have not yet been realized to the detriment of the Israel he has spent all his life working for, and the region which he understands we need to be a part of. These plans include the Beilin-Abu Mazen Agreement and The Geneva Initiative, both of which I had the honor to work with Yossi on, and are well worth revisiting.
Often forgotten is that Beilin has also intensely involved himself with the subject of Israel’s relationship with the Jewish diaspora and, prolific author that he is, Yossi even wrote a book on this subject, “His Brother’s Keeper.” The now well-established Taglit or Birthright program, so beloved to Jewish communities and the establishment, was originally the brainchild of guess who? YB.
Hopefully, the removal of constraints of party leadership will re-release the tireless thinker and unstoppable private statesman in Yossi Beilin. Beilin himself stated in his resignation announcement that “I will now invest more than I have in the last four years in the peace process. I have never hidden the fact that there is nothing more urgent in my eyes than grasping the opportunity for peace. I now feel a particular sense of urgency.” In a recent Washington Post op-ed, Beilin pressed the need for a ceasefire between Israel and the Hamas-controlled Gaza strip, a move that may have been a harbinger of the kind of efforts Beilin will now pursue. …
As for Jumas, a colleague from the Geneva Initiative, a wonderful man and someone basically unknown in the US, more on him in a future post. One may read Levy’s entire posting online.