Nadav Tamir, former consul general of Israel to New England, was one of Shimon Peres’ (z“l) closest advisors. On March 1, Nadav helped launch CJP’s CommUNITY Israel Dialogue as Greater Boston celebrated Peres’ extraordinary life.
Welcome back to Boston! From your view, what do you think has changed in the community since your last trip here?
I haven’t been here for more than six years, so I don’t have the full picture, but from what I have seen, I see a Jewish community that is more involved in economic activity between Massachusetts and Israel and was involved with Gov. Charlie Baker’s Israel visit. On the other hand, I understand that there are some difficult conversations about Israel in the community, which is one of the reasons for this dialogue. I have to say, that makes me sad. I always wanted Israel to be something that united the Jews, not separated them. This dialogue is very important. I really hope it leads to a productive conversation about Israel.
Tell us a little about the last few years you worked with President Shimon Peres. Did he remain hopeful about the possibility of peace? What was driving him?
Shimon Peres had a license to be optimistic because he was [in Israel] when Israel was nothing. He helped make Israel into the “start-up nation,” the one with the strongest military in the Middle East, a country with a powerful economy and wonderful society. When people talk about gloom and doom, he just didn’t buy it.
It was the same with peacemaking. He remembered days when people said we couldn’t have peace with Egypt, the most powerful army in the region, or with the Jordanians, which shares the largest border with Israel. He was always optimistic about peace and I share that optimism.
What is one particular experience you had with Shimon that you’ll always remember?
I will always remember the meetings that I participated in with him and foreign leaders. Through him, I was able to be in an intimate setting with leaders from all over the world. Presidents Obama, Bush and Clinton, Chancellor Merkel, and so many others. When I was at these meetings, it was amazing to see how they were listening to him as if he was their mentor or their rabbi. He always had something interesting, something strategic, something out of the box to share. For me, it was amazing to be in those meetings and to learn about those leaders firsthand.
What’s the message that you want people to take with them from the tribute to Shimon Peres event tonight?
The optimism. There’s a lot of gloom and doom because of the political situation both in the United States and in Israel. Israel is a miracle and we have to work together to make it better. People have to remember that. We cannot let those challenges separate us, whether we come from left or right, whether we’re political or not political. The connection between Israel and the Jewish community in the United States is the single most important thing for Jewish continuity. I want them to come out of this event, of this program, energized about their connection to Israel and to work together to make Israel and America together as brothers and sisters, though we’re divided by an ocean.
Do you think it’s possible to have a wide variety of views about Israel and still have constructive dialogue?
Absolutely. This was always a Jewish idea; to argue. But we should not make the argument a cause for a rift. We have to understand when people care deeply, they are opinionated. We love Israel, whether we are critical or not. We have to have a constructive dialogue. We have to be able to speak about Israel in a productive way. What matters is the connection with the country, not the criticism. That’s what matters.
What do you think the prospects are for a two-state solution?
There’s no other way. Without two states, Israel is not going to be either the homeland for Jewish people or a democracy. There’s no other way and that’s why eventually it will happen.
What do you miss most about being consul general in New England? What were your fondest memories?
I miss this community very much. There are so many talented, passionate people. I was honored to serve here. I love American politics. I was engaged. I miss the sports, the great Boston teams. I still follow the Red Sox. Really, I miss so many things. I really enjoyed every second of my four years in Boston.
Learn more about the CommUNITY Israel Dialogue.