DATE June 17, 2004 ACCOUNT NUMBER N/A
TIME 12:00 Noon-1:00 PM AUDIENCE N/A
PROGRAM Fresh Air
Interview: Yossi Beilin discusses his work as a peace negotiator
between the Israelis and the Palestinians
TERRY GROSS, host:
This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross.
My guest, Yossi Beilin, has not given up on the idea of a negotiated peace in
the Middle East. When Ariel Sharon became prime minister of Israel, the
second Intifadah heated up, and official peace talks were no longer on the
immediate agenda, Beilin led unofficial peace talks between a group of
Israelis and Palestinians. Those talks resulted in the Geneva Initiative,
which was unveiled last October. The signers of this document hope that it
will be used as a blueprint for a negotiated peace. But Prime Minister Sharon
has said if Israel agreed to the Geneva plan, it would amount to suicide.
Yossi Beilin was also one of the architects of the Oslo Accords which were
signed in 1993 at a Washington ceremony where Yitzhak Rabin and Yasser Arafat
shook hands. In 2000, Beilin participated in the Middle East peace talks in
He was born in Israel and has served in several ministerial positions,
including minister of justice in the Barak government. I asked Beilin how he
got together with Yasser Abed Rabbo, his Palestinian counterpart in the Geneva
Mr. YOSSI BEILIN ("The Path to Geneva"): We had met many times, and we
were part of the previous negotiations, the official negotiations, including
the Taba talks, which were the last attempt of both sides to have an
agreement. It was January 2001. Since then, there was never a meeting on the
permanent solution between the two sides. Our feeling in Taba, both of us,
maybe unlike the feelings of others on both sides, was that we were very, very
close to a conclusion, to an agreement, and that because of the circumstances,
meaning we were so close to the Israeli elections, it was a matter of a week
or two, and because of the political situation, meaning that the Israeli
government did not have a majority in the Knesset already, it was impossible
to get to an agreement then, but that had we had a little bit more time and
better circumstances, it could have happened.
And that is why we believed that it was important for us both to try and build
two groups and to work on a very detailed plan in order to prove to our both
constituencies, to ourselves and to the world that peace between the two
parties was possible, and that the general notion, which was then developing
that because of the Camp David talks and also because of Taba, that at the
last moment, one of the parties will run away, either because of Jerusalem or
because of the refugees, that it was possible to have a detailed agreement and
to cover all the outstanding issues in a positive way, which we did.
GROSS: Now when you and Rabbo were meeting together, you were not meeting in
any official capacity. You were not officially representing the Israelis and
the Palestinians, and there were a lot of travel obstacles in place then that
made it hard for you to actually get together. Can you talk a little bit
about the physical obstacles that you faced in actually meeting and how you
circumvented those obstacles?
Mr. BEILIN: You know, most of the time people don't ask these questions. It
is obvious for them that there is a paper. Apparently people met each other,
found a way to each other in a hotel or wherever. This is not the story. But
in our course it was a story, because at the beginning it was possible still
for me to get to the Palestinian territories. Later on there was a decision
that nobody, no Israeli, would be permitted there because of security reasons.
Now as a result of it, we had to meet in very strange places, including in the
checkpoints, and I remember one day where we had to meet. There were some
issues that we had to talk about. We met in the checkpoint, which is a kind
of almost no-man's land. It was winter. It was raining. In order to talk to
each other, we entered a car. It was a car of a TV crew that the crew
volunteered to leave the car in order for us to enter and to talk. And we sat
there while it was raining, and people looked at us, and I remember an old
lady, an old Palestinian lady who had to cross the checkpoint from Ramallah to
the area of Jerusalem, and she approached us and looked at us through the
glass, and when she recognized the both of us, she wanted us to open the
window, which we did without, of course, knowing what she wanted from us. And
she said to us, `Blessed will be the negotiators.' And that was a very, very
exciting moment that both of us will never forget.
But it was just an example for the hardships of these negotiations. It was
really crazy. When you compare it to other negotiations that we had had just
some months beforehand when we really represented our states, our governments
in nice hotels, in the Israeli side, on the Palestinian side, or in Taba or in
other places, to the new situation, it was really day and night, and it was a
kind of a challenge for itself every time to meet again. Eventually we found
out that it was only possible for us, or almost only possible for us to meet
GROSS: Do you and your Palestinian negotiating partner, Yasser Abed Rabbo,
consider yourselves friends? Do you consider yourselves enemies? Do you
consider yourselves just doing your best to find some kind of mutual point of
agreement? What do you consider your relationship to be?
Mr. BEILIN: The answer is more dynamic than static. Of course when we first
met years ago, we represented very, very different viewpoints, and we
represented two rival peoples. Now during the years, when we were much more
acquainted to each other, when we met the families and then we know each other
better, we know one's history better, I, of course, can say that we became
more and more friendly. And that happened to the two groups. I mean, it was
never only the two of us--only at the beginning--but later on we became about
25 on each side people who knew each other through very, very strange points
in their lives, as a prisoner and the commander of the region who freed him
and things like this. It was a very, very interesting endeavor and an
interesting challenge for both parties, and I think that at the end of the day
when we concluded our work in October last year, there were some friendships
developed between the two sides.
This is, I believe, the natural way of such kind of negotiations, especially,
if I may say so, when we were so far from the media, when we did not have to
report every day about a development, when it was the kind of a showdown that
we had to prove to our constituency that we made some progress and that the
other side had to submit to our demands and vice versa. But it was a real
attempt to find a mutual solution, a common ground, a common denominator,
despite the big differences in the hot debate that we did have between us.
GROSS: What do you consider to be the greatest breakthrough that you and
Rabbo made in the Geneva Initiative?
Mr. BEILIN: There were some. The first one was territory. I had always
believed that the territory was the key to a solution, and that we have to
begin by a map rather than end by a map. And we decided to base our map on
the '67 war, meaning the border of before the '67 war. Once we decided that
these pre-war borders will be the basis with mutual changes, with mutual
modifications, we actually had an agreement. Now we debated about the extent
of these changes. Eventually it was really minor. We are speaking about
something like 2.3 percent of the West Bank, which would be annexed to Israel
in exchange for the same size of land which would be given to the Palestinians
from the current borders of Israel.
GROSS: And would this be land in the West Bank that is already occupied by
Mr. BEILIN: Which will be next to Israel in exchange for land which is not in
the West Bank and Gaza, but in Israel itself in the sovereign Israel, which
will be handed over to the Palestinians. Mainly we are speaking about a strip
to the east of the Gaza Strip, which will be next to Gaza, which apparently is
the most densely populated area in the world. Now once we solved the
territorial issue, we had two major issues. One was in Jerusalem. And here
mainly the Temple Mount or what is called by the Palestinians, by the Muslims
Haram al-Sharif. The other one was the issue of the refugees, which is called
by the Palestinians the right of return. We had to solve these two major
thorny problems, and we solved it in a way of package, which I believe is the
most important part of Geneva.
This is the formula. On the one hand, Israel is getting the sovereignty over
the Wailing Wall but giving up on sovereignty on the Temple Mount. And this
would be given to the Palestinians. The Palestinians will have the
sovereignty on the Temple Mount, which is very, very important for them, and
which is a kind of a sacrifice for Israel. On the other hand, the
Palestinians agreed that any question of Palestinians, of refugees admitted to
Israel will be decided by Israel so that Israel will be the sovereign to
decide about any entrance of the Palestinians to its own soil. This is for
them the biggest sacrifice, because it means that there is actually no right
of return, because a right of return cannot be limited. And here you are not
speaking about returning. We are speaking about admitting Palestinians to
Israel, as other countries like the United States might be ready to host
Palestinians in the future as part of the solution. Now a very detailed...
GROSS: Wait. Now I'm gonna stop you for a second. Now my understanding is,
in terms of the right of return--let's just talk about that for a second,
'cause that has been such a big issue, and I think that has sunk some
agreements in the past. My understanding is what you came up with is that
there wouldn't really be a right of return, but Israel would financially
compensate people whose families became exiles or, you know, had to flee...
Mr. BEILIN: Right.
GROSS: ...after the '48 Arab-Israeli War. What kind of compensation are you
talking about? I mean, that's the kind of thing you could talk about for
years after agreeing, `Yup, there'll be compensation.' What? What and for
Mr. BEILIN: We referred in detail to the formula of getting to an agreement
about compensations. We are referring both to compensations for assets of
those refugees who owned them before '48 or '49, and for compensations which
would be given to every refugee, refugee's family for the suffering and their
loss in the last 56 years. We are referring to something which is not very
vague. There are some attempts to quantify the damages, the compensations
which they deserve. It was done in the past both by the UN in the '50s and
also by Israel. The gifts are not too big. We know more or less what we are
speaking about. We are speaking about some tens of billions of dollars, and I
think that something like this will be possible with the help of the world,
but Israel will have to take part in it. We are referring in our initiative
to the details of the international council and the international foundation
which will deal with these issues of compensation for assets and for the
suffering, and we are also referring to the way--how are we going to agree
upon the amounts if there are differences, and there will be differences. So
it is not just an agreement about principles, whereby we say, `Yes, refugees
will get compensations,' and we go on. It is much, much more detailed than
GROSS: My guest is Yossi Beilin. He was an architect of the unofficial
Middle East peace plan, the Geneva Accord, which was unveiled last fall. His
new book is called "The Path to Geneva."
We'll talk more after a break. This is FRESH AIR.
(Soundbite of music)
GROSS: My guest is Yossi Beilin. He was an architect of the Oslo peace
accords of '93 and of last year's unofficial peace plan, the Geneva Accord.
Say that the agreement that you came up with, the Geneva Initiative, was
actually accepted by official channels in Israel and among the Palestinians.
Do you think that Hamas and Hezbollah and all the potential suicide bombers
would actually honor that agreement?
Mr. BEILIN: Well, Hezbollah is playing a very different floor. Hezbollah is
a Lebanese organization which has done something to do with terrorism
elsewhere, but this is not the main problem for us. The problem is really
Hamas or Islamic Jihad. Now even just listening to what they are saying, they
are saying that the Palestinians should never have an agreement with Israel.
This is forbidden. But if Israel withdraws to the '67 borders, then they will
declare a cease-fire. They are not interested in the way in which Israel will
do that. I believe that Hamas always prefers Israel to do it unilaterally
because they understand that. If it is done mutually, as part of a bilateral
agreement, it means that the Palestinians will have to recognize Israel and
its right to exist as a Jewish state, which they will never accept apparently.
So what I'm saying is actually twofold. One is that according to whatever
they say, they may have a cease-fire then. But there is something which is
more important than that, because it is difficult to really trust their own
declarations. I would say the following. Hamas and Islamic Jihad are always
stronger in a time of conflict and are always weaker in time of peace. I
believe that if we have an agreement like the Geneva model or something else,
because Geneva, you know, is neither the Old Testament or the new one. But if
we have something like that, then the chance for the Palestinian government or
authority to become the most powerful force on the Palestinian side is very,
very big. And more and more people will help such an establishment to prevent
Hamas from fulfilling any acts of terrorism. Today the power of the
establishment is much, much weaker, and their arguments are weaker because
they cannot say, `Let us let you stop violence and we will have something
good,' because there is not so much to promise the Palestinians in the
This is why I believe that by getting back to the negotiating table, something
which the government of Sharon regretfully has not done since January 2001, it
will give hope to the pragmatic camp on the Palestinian side and will make
Hamas weaker and weaker. Many less people will have the desire to commit
suicide and to kill others if they have hope to build their homes and to
become more comfortable and to have some hope for their families and so on and
GROSS: But that raises the question: Do you think if Israel participated in
a kind of, you know, land for peace and two-state solution agreement that also
addressed the right of return issue, do you think that the Palestinians as a
people would actually be willing to recognize Israel's existence? Or do you
think that the hatred of Israel and that attacks upon Israel would continue in
spite of an agreement?
Mr. BEILIN: First of all, in the agreement itself, it must appear, there must
be a reference to the recognition of Israel as a Jewish state or the right of
the Jewish people to statehood, which appears in Geneva. Now you are asking
me something which is more difficult, whether the Palestinian people will
internalize hating, comply with it and so on and so forth. Here...
GROSS: I guess what I'm asking, too, is if you think that a hatred of Israel
kind of surpasses the specific issues. Even if you settle the specific
issues, will there be like a larger hatred of Israel that will endure?
Mr. BEILIN: There is hatred towards Israel, and it exists in other Arab
countries. It exists here in Egypt and in Jordan. I cannot say that just by
signing an agreement it will disappear. I believe that such an agreement is a
sine qua non, is a condition for change of hearts. But the change of hearts
doesn't happen with the agreement, and it will be our role, speaking about the
peacemakers, about the pragmatic forces, about those who believe in peace, to
educate our respective constituencies. It is a lot of work. A lot of work.
We will have to fight against incitement. We will have to try and change the
curriculum in schools, not only on the Palestinian side. Of course, there it
is much harsher, but also our side. Sometimes even without paying attention
you see that there are references which should be omitted. So what I'm saying
is that peace and the peace agreement is just a beginning. Is not the end of
educating the peoples to change their hearts.
GROSS: Yossi Beilin's new book is called "The Path to Geneva." He now leads
Israel's Social Democratic Party. He'll be back in the second half of the
I'm Terry Gross and this is FRESH AIR.
GROSS: Coming up, more with Yossi Beilin on negotiating secret Middle East
peace talks. And Ken Tucker reviews Loretta Lynn's new album, which was
produced by Jack White of The White Stripes.
(Soundbite of music)
GROSS: This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross, back with Yossi Beilin. He's
been pivotal in several sets of Middle East peace talks. He was an architect
of the Oslo Accords, which was signed in Washington in 1993. He participated
in the Taba peace talks in 2000. Last year he and his Palestinian colleague,
Yasser Abed Rabbo, unveiled the Geneva Accord, an unofficial peace plan they
hope will serve as the blueprint for a negotiated peace. Beilin's new book is
called "The Path to Geneva."
Now in your memoir, "The Path to Geneva," you say that, `Past experience has
taught us that one of the most efficient ways to get to the root of a matter
and thereby to reach the bottom line was to change roles. Each of us entered
the shoes of the other for a short while, presenting his perception and
positions as he understood them.' What did you learn from that?
Mr. BEILIN: I can give you an example. The example was that Nabil Shaath
did not understand, I believe, enough the importance that somebody like me
would attribute the importance of the Jewish majority in Israel. He failed
that even a Jewish significant minority could have an impact. And he gave me
the example of the American juries, saying that, `Despite the fact that the
American jury is such a small segment of the American people, still they are
quite significant in the administration, in the media, in business and so on
and so forth.' And I said to him, `Dr. Shaath, you have to understand this is
the whole difference between United States and Israel.' It is not that it is
important for us to have some impact on the life of the state where we live.
Israel is the only country in the world where Jews are a majority. And it
means that the holidays are Jewish and the curriculum is Jewish, not
necessarily a religious one but is relating to the Jewish heritage and the
Now this is the importance of Israel. People who don't accept the idea of a
Jewish state--and there are many who don't accept this idea--may not attribute
any importance to something like that. But this is the only country whereby
we don't live as a minority. And this is why it is so important for us to
assume that the borders will be such that we will not be a minority in our own
country. Something like this, which I had believed was very, very clear to
somebody so knowledgeable like Nabil Shaath, was not exactly the story.
GROSS: Have you ever asked yourself--and I think this will probably sound
like a horrible question to you, but have you ever asked yourself whether a
Jewish state makes sense or can really function in an increasingly global
Mr. BEILIN: No, this is not a horrible question. I think...
GROSS: ...borders are breaking down and countries are becoming more and more
multicultural? At least Western countries are becoming more and more
Mr. BEILIN: It is a legitimate question, and it has been a legitimate
question. I live in a world whereby in the Jewish state is a fait accompli.
I was born in Israel. I never left Israel for more than a week or whatever.
The Jewish state for me is part of my world. But I think that one should ask
all the legitimate questions in the world, including this one. Now what I'm
saying is the following thing: that the Jewish history, the Jewish tradition
told us how difficult it was to be Jewish as a minority. Even those who
turned their back to religion or even tradition, those who wanted to
assimilate into the non-Jewish world found it very, very difficult. I'm
speaking about the past centuries including the 20th century.
Now there might be a situation in the world which would be very different, a
globalization, a process, a world whereby you are a citizen of the world
rather than a citizen of your own country; that the divisions between us will
not be national divisions but ideological divisions and others. And it might
be a nicer world, a better world, but I would not like Israel to be the first
in the queue to give up on its nationality. I mean, after the thousands of
years of suffering of my people, I think that we would like to see others
giving up on its nationalities, and only then Israel might reconsider being a
Jewish state. Until then--and I believe that we are still speaking about some
centuries--it is important that there will be a Jewish state. And I think
that people like me prove that a Jewish state is not a nationalistic state.
Zionism was never nationalistic. Zionism stemmed only from the fact that Jews
could not live as human beings in Europe. This was the story of Zionism.
And I believe that if we are speaking about a Jewish state, which means the
state of the Jewish people and of all its citizens, and if we are fighting
like hell in order to create a situation whereby every citizen, being Jewish
or Arab, who lives in Israel feels equal to the other, if this is the
situation, then we are winning. If, God forbid, the situation is different;
if, God forbid, we find ourselves as a minority of Jews dominating a majority
of non-Jews, this is the end of Zionism. And those who believe that this is
the implementation of their nationalism are wrong.
GROSS: My guest is Yossi Beilin. He was an architect of the unofficial
Middle East peace plan, the Geneva Accord, which was unveiled last fall. His
new book is called "The Path to Geneva." We'll talk more after a break. This
is FRESH AIR.
(Soundbite of music)
GROSS: My guest is Yossi Beilin, who was an architect of the Oslo peace
accords of '93 and of last year's unofficial peace plan, the Geneva Accord.
Now there are a lot of people in Israel who feel that there is nobody to
negotiate with on the Palestinian side, not Yasser Arafat--I mean, what makes
you think that you can have a good negotiating partner?
Mr. BEILIN: We cannot choose our partners. We did not choose President
Sadat. We did not choose King Hussein. We did not choose President Assad.
The Americans never chose Stalin or whoever on the other side. The question
is whether we want peace or not. This is the question. When you don't want
peace, you can easily say that your partner is not nice. Who has nice
partners? You are speaking about enemy. You are speaking about rivals. You
are not speaking about your friends. And that's why I'm saying I'm not
defending our partners necessarily. Some of them are nice, some of them are
bad. But we have to make peace with them. And we made already peace with
people who were dictators, who were far from being nice but who kept their
word, and I believe that in our case this is the same.
We have now a Palestinian prime minister. The Palestinian prime minister was
not an idea of Yasser Arafat. It was an idea of Israel. It was an idea of
Ariel Sharon, which was implemented by coordination by the Americans and the
Europeans and the UN and Russia. Now there is a prime minister. The first
one was Abu Mazen some months ago, and Israel or Sharon did not help him at
all. Instead of giving him or releasing to him Palestinian prisoners, he
preferred to release these prisoners to Nasrallah, the leader of Hezbollah.
And because he became weaker, he decided to resign.
Now there is another prime minister, who is a very pragmatic person, by the
name of Abu Allah. Abu Allah was my partner in Oslo. Now why not negotiating
with him? I mean, you know that in the last three and a half years there was
not even one meeting of negotiations on the permanent solution. I think that
Abu Allah is a very good partner for negotiations. To boycott him is, really,
not only stupid but inexplicable. Sharon's policy was that one should not
negotiate as long as there is terrorism. If this is a policy, which I believe
is the wrong policy because in history it never worked, why has he tried to
withdraw unilaterally, end the terrorism, but it is wrong to negotiate under
terrorism? And that's why I believe that the question is not necessarily
whether our partner is a nice partner or not a nice partner.
I can presume that some Palestinians are saying that as long as Sharon is
there, it won't be possible to negotiate with Israel. But I'm telling them
Sharon was democratically elected by Israel. Whether you like him or not, he
is your partner. And we have to talk to the Palestinian partner without being
too choosy. If we are too choosey, if we are waiting only for the partner
which suits us, this partner will never, ever be accepted by the Palestinians
GROSS: I'm curious to hear what you think of Ariel Sharon's plan to
unilaterally withdraw from Gaza and the security fence that is being built in
the West Bank. Do you think that these are heading Israel in the right
Mr. BEILIN: I'm afraid not. Speaking about the security fence, it can only
be legitimate if it is built on the '67 borders. To build such a wall in the
depth of the Palestinian territories, to separate these Palestinians from
their world, from their lands, from their hospitals, from their schools is
something which we should not do. And we might pay a very high price for it
in the hatred, which is increasing on the other side because of that.
Speaking about unilateral decision to withdraw from Gaza, I believe that it is
only better than remaining in Gaza, and that's why my party will support it.
But I think that it is a big mistake, a big mistake, to do something like that
unilaterally rather than to talk to the other side and to agree upon such a
withdrawal. I don't understand. It is really inexplicable for me to
understand. Why does the prime minister prefer to withdraw without anything
that he can get from the other side rather than to go back to the negotiating
table and to decide upon the modalities of such a withdrawal?
GROSS: Do you think that living with suicide bombers...
Mr. BEILIN: Yeah.
GROSS: ...which Israel has been faced with a lot of in the past couple of
years--is that changing you politically? Is it changing your feelings about
how realistic it is to have a negotiated peace?
Mr. BEILIN: There is no question...
GROSS: And I'm wondering if it's making you angry, too, or if it's making it
harder for you to negotiate, to talk with the Palestinians who you've worked
with for years.
Mr. BEILIN: It doesn't make it harder to talk with the same Palestinians with
whom we had talked in the past because they themselves are not part of it.
But it makes it much, much more difficult to make peace because people lost
trust in peace. And they may portray the whole Palestinian people as
potential suicide bombers. It is very difficult for people to differentiate.
It is very difficult for them to say, `OK, these are the bad Palestinians,
so-called, and there are good Palestinians.' No. The general feeling is,
`How can we trust the Palestinians?' And that makes the work of somebody like
me much, much more difficult. So there is no question that the second
intifada, which began in the end of September 2000, made it very, very
difficult for the peace camp to proceed with the peace process.
GROSS: You're in a kind of interesting position. You know, after the Geneva
initiative, you and your negotiating partner, Yasser Abed Rabbo, agreed with
each other, and yet most of your country disagreed with you (laughs). And I'm
sure a lot of Palestinians disagreed with Rabbo. So I'm wondering what it's
like for you to be in that position of you're able to make an agreement with
your Palestinian negotiating partner, but you can't get most Israelis to agree
Mr. BEILIN: The big surprise was the other way round. I mean, we got 40
percent. Now 40 percent is more than what the Labor Party, my own Yahut
Party(ph) and other leftist parties got in the last elections. To get 40
percent of the Israeli public opinion supporting Geneva was the biggest
surprise of my life almost. Now the same number, astonishingly, was given to
the supporters of the Palestinians to Geneva, 40 percent. Now if this is the
situation, if 40 percent of the two peoples are ready to all these details,
including the problematic concessions that we are talking about, getting from
40 to 51 or to 55 or to 60 is not such hard work. So I was very encouraged.
My original estimation was that we won't get more than 15 percent, and this is
something I shared with my colleagues. And I was really surprised when we got
this number, and that is actually my biggest encouragement.
GROSS: Is the fact that you and Rabbo independently, unofficially negotiated
together a sign that you've given up hope on the official representatives of
Israel and the Palestinians, on official peace talks?
Mr. BEILIN: I would say the following: Prime Minister Sharon has his own
plan. The plan is to create a small Palestinian state in the Gaza Strip and
about 40 or 50 percent of the West Bank without solving the issue of Jerusalem
and of the refugees, believing that in such a way he solved the demographic
problem and he defers the solution for many, many years. I believe that such
a solution is a very, very dangerous one for the Israeli national interest. I
believe that Sharon will never find a Palestinian partner for such a plan.
And I believe that people should know that there is an alternative.
I did not give up on the Israeli partner or the Palestinian partner, but I'm
sure that the current Israeli government is not going to do something like
Geneva. Sharon himself said to The New York Times about two months ago that
he suggested his unilateral withdrawal from Gaza because of the Geneva plan;
that he wanted to prevent an implementation of such a plan. And that is why
it was so important for us to prove that there is a support for something like
that and that our plan can really solve the outstanding problems rather than
to retain them, to keep them as kind of hovering clouds over our skies.
GROSS: Are you involved in any secret negotiations now? Not that you would
tell me (laughs).
Mr. BEILIN: So what would you like me to say to you? No, actually, the
answer is a negative. What I'm involved with...
Mr. BEILIN: ...in that respect is in preparing the annexes to the Geneva
initiative. It is a lot of work. We would like to prepare annexes--there are
22 issues that we would like to elaborate on, if it is water, the economic
relations, if it is the electromagnetic space, even technical issues. And I
hope that it will be possible for us to prepare a much more detailed one than
the most detailed plan that has ever been suggested to both sides.
GROSS: So you're still working on Geneva. You still think that that is a
good strategy, and you're still hoping that it is adapted or that at least
it's borrowed from, at least it becomes an inspiration to the larger process.
Mr. BEILIN: Undoubtedly, especially, you know, because of one thing, which is
quite strange. There is no competition in the market. I mean, there is
nobody who's suggested something which is an alternative to Geneva, a detailed
plan with the Palestinians which is better in his or her eyes. Geneva is the
only plan in the market. And I believe that because of that--this is our
biggest advantage--that once the parties are ready to renegotiate, they will
have it. Whether they like it or not, this will be the only point of
reference, as it became the point of reference in the last half a year. We
never believed that the Geneva plan would become such an important point of
reference in few months, that parliaments in the world will endorse it like in
the Bundestag and now in the French Senate in the near future and in others.
And this is a big achievement for us, and we should like to elaborate on it
and to give more details to the annexes which are still to be worked upon.
GROSS: Well, Yossi Beilin, thank you so much for talking with us.
Mr. BEILIN: Thank you very much.
GROSS: Yossi Beilin's new book is called "The Path to Geneva."
Coming up, Ken Tucker reviews Loretta Lynn's latest CD, which was produced by
Jack White of The White Stripes. This is FRESH AIR.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Review: Loretta Lynn's album "Van Lear Rose"
TERRY GROSS, host:
One of the most talked about albums of the year is "Van Lear Rose," the
veteran country singer Loretta Lynn's collaboration with Jack White of the
rock band The White Stripes as her producer. The project has attracted
attention for the unlikeliness of this pairing, the traditional country singer
in her late 60s and the indie rock musician in his late 20s. Rock critic Ken
Tucker says the resulting album is neither as radical nor as much of a novelty
as you might expect.
(Soundbite of music)
Ms. LORETTA LYNN: (Singing) One of my fondest memories was sittin' on my
daddy's knee listenin' to the stories that he told. He'd pull out that old
photograph like a treasured memory from the past and say, `Child, this here's
the Van Lear Rose.'
KEN TUCKER reporting:
Like a remarkable number of veteran country singers, Loretta Lynn's voice has
aged extremely well. At age 69, she's fully up to the task of singing with,
around and sometimes against the rock 'n' roll-rooted backing that Jack White
provides for her on this album. Lynn's Kentucky holler is both powerful and
melodious as well as intimate and subtle.
(Soundbite of music)
Ms. LYNN: (Singing) I lie here all alone in my bed of memories. I'm dreamin'
of your sweet kiss, of how you loved on me. I can almost feel you with me
here in this blue moonlight. Oh, I miss being Mrs. tonight. Like so many...
TUCKER: A lot of reviews of "Van Lear Rose" have made a big deal about how
this is the first album of songs nearly all of which were written by Loretta
Lynn. This betrays two things: one, that rock critics still prize authorship
as an ultimate sign of integrity, even though many great pop and rock
performers starting with Elvis Presley didn't write their own material; and,
two, rock critics obviously don't know about an excellent little album
released in 1970 called "Loretta Writes 'Em and Sings 'Em," which you'd think
would kind of stand out if you were doing even the slightest bit of research.
Anyway, while there are lots of very good songs on this album, they're not any
better than some of Lynn's greatest hits in her commercial prime, like "Fist
City" and "Don't Come Home A Drinkin' (With; Lovin' on Your Mind)." One of the
new ones that can stand with her best is this tune, "Family Tree."
(Soundbite of "Family Tree")
Ms. LYNN: (Singing) Woman, you don't know me, but you can bet that I know
you. Everybody in this whole darn town knows you, too. I've brought along
our little babies 'cause I wanted them to see the woman that's burnin' down
our family tree. No, I didn't...
TUCKER: Loretta Lynn recorded most of her biggest hits with one producer,
Owen Bradley, who surrounded her with stripped-down backing that showcased her
voice and the lyric. Jack White adds music to Loretta Lynn: grand, ornery
guitar intros and codas that help Lynn establish a mood or punctuate the
feelings being expressed. Listen to the way White sets up Lynn on this song,
"Mrs. Leroy Brown."
(Soundbite of "Mrs. Leroy Brown")
Ms. LYNN: (Singing) I've been in and out of every honky-tonk in town. And
I'm almost drunk from the drinks that I've turned down. Well, you told me
you'd be happy bouncing babies on your knee while I sit at home alone and I've
been bouncing three. Yeah, and I'm tired of it, too.
TUCKER: Another terrific thing Jack White does on this album is permit
Loretta Lynn to get back in touch with some of her earliest influences, ones
that were quickly banned from her '70s recording sessions because they didn't
fit the stuff that was most commercial in the country music of the time, like
the bluesy tone she slips into so easily on this song.
(Soundbite of music)
Ms. LYNN: (Singing) Have mercy on me, baby. I'm down upon my knees. Have
mercy on me, baby. I'll do just as you please. Well, you know that I love
you. I put no one else above you. Have mercy on me, baby. Have mercy. Have
mercy on me, baby.
TUCKER: Of course, that kind of country blues isn't commercial now either.
But all the publicity around this Jack White album has forced country stations
that long ago settled for mediocre country acts, like Lonestar and Keith
Urban, to add the title song from this album to their playlists. Whether this
record is interpreted mistakenly as a stunt or more rightly as an homage from
a young admirer to an old pro, "Van Lear Rose" may not be a great album, but
it's certainly one of the most varied, surprising and flat-out enjoyable ones
any country artist has attempted in a good long while.
GROSS: Ken Tucker is critic at large for Entertainment Weekly. He reviewed
Loretta Lynn's latest album, "Van Lear Rose."
GROSS: I'm Terry Gross.
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