Diplomat says innovation key to peace


Nadav Tamir, who served several years ago as Israel’s consul general to New England, spoke about the “Peres Legacy and Vision of Peace and Innovation – How Israel Became a StartUp Nation and How It Will Eventually Achieve Peace” during a return visit to Rhode Island on Nov. 14. 


Tamir worked in the Foreign Ministry under Shimon Peres, as Peres’ senior policy adviser during much of his presidency, and is now at the Peres Center for Peace and Innovation, in Tel Aviv-Jaffa, Israel.

Tamir discussed Peres’ vision, which Tamir is working to implement both at the Peres Center and at Peres & Associates Global Advisory LTD.

Peres did not believe that peace can be imposed from the top leadership down; instead, he believed that peace begins at the bottom, between people, and works its way up to government, Tamir said. This philosophy has led the center to create many programs to bring diverse groups of people together.

Peres also believed in innovation and risk-taking, which are among the chief strategies Israel has used to become a success, Tamir said. Since these are also tools for creating peace, he added, the center will open a public innovation center in Jaffa in February.

In response to a question about Israel’s vulnerabilities, as seen in the recent rocket barrage from Gaza, Tamir said he believes that Israel today is stronger than ever. An army officer and the father of an officer, he said he supports a strong military, and Israel’s army is already stronger than all the others in the Middle East combined.

The rockets, ISIS, Hamas, the Islamic jihad and Iran are all major irritants, he said, but they are not existential threats to Israel: The real threat would be losing its identity as a Jewish and democratic state. If Palestinians do not get their own state, the Jews could become a minority in a nation that is neither Jewish nor a democracy, he said.

Tamir said Israel is the homeland of all Jews, not just of Israelis or the ruling religious parties. Israel must not treat Jews of the diaspora and of Reform and Conservative backgrounds as second-class citizens, he said.

Tamir believes there are four main tribes in Israel: Haredi, light Orthodox/traditional, secular and Arab. The Peres Center tries to find opportunities for these groups – which have their own school systems and neighborhoods – to come together. But, he said, this effort is as difficult as fixing the U.S.’s Electoral College.

To learn more about Peres’ vision, Tamir encouraged the audience to read Peres’ posthumously published book, “No Room for Small Dreams: Courage, Imagination, and the Making of Modern Israel.”

Tamir spoke at the Dwares Jewish Community Center, in Providence, to a group of about 50. This was the second event in the Jewish Alliance of Greater Rhode Island’s Israel Culture Series.  These events are organized by Nir Cafri, the shaliach/Israeli emissary to the community, and are generally held at the  Alliance’s Dwares JCC. The Dec. 12 program will feature games for adults that focus on Israel and Hanukkah.

The Nov. 14 program was co-sponsored by the Rhode Island-Israel Collaborative, which builds economic, scientific and academic ties between Rhode Island and Israel. For more information about RIIC, go to www.theriic.org.

LARRY KATZ (lkatz@jewishallianceri.org) is director of Jewish Life and Learning at the Jewish Alliance of Greater Rhode Island.