Adi Koll is a newly elected member of the Knesset from Israel’s new centrist party, Yesh Atid. She visited the U.S. last week to discuss the prospect of achieving a two-state solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Prior to her election to the Knesset, Koll, 37, was a lecturer at Tel Aviv and Ben-Gurion universities and received the Knesset Speaker Prize for the Reduction of Social Inequality. She holds a doctorate in law from Columbia University’s School of Law.
Q: Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has long resisted returning to the negotiating table, demanding as a precondition that all settlement construction be halted. Why does there suddenly appear to be movement on both sides?
A: Both sides understand that we can’t continue with this situation, and both sides are willing to go back to the table. In the last election campaign, the people of Israel told us to go back to the negotiations. This is the time; it’s now or never.
There are changes taking place in the Arab world whose outcome we don’t know. And the world is distressed over Israel, with boycotts of Israeli products in Europe. It makes it impossible for Israel to continue both morally and financially without a solution.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has publicly agreed to a two-state solution. Do you believe he is truly committed to seeing it realized?
There is no other solution. We tried other options and nothing has worked. Most Israelis understand what the end result will be. They know it will end with a two-state solution, and I think [Secretary of State John] Kerry’s initiative helped him [Netanyahu] understand that this is what we have to do.
Why have you personally embraced a two-state solution?
I think it is the only solution available. The Palestinian economy is suffering. The majority of Palestinians don’t care about a return of Palestinian refugees, they just want a decent life. They are concerned for their own health and welfare.
And I would like to live in a country that is democratic. I don’t see a way to do that without divorcing ourselves from the Palestinians and living side-by-side with them..
What is your reaction to a recent bill that would establish Israel as a Jewish state?
The bill was presented by a member of my party, and while we all agree that Israel should be a Jewish state, the only way to do that is to have clear borders — otherwise [Palestinians] will outnumber us.
The problem with this bill is that it is not democratic enough. It would give our Declaration of Independence the legal status of a basic law. But the document does not say a word about what it means to be democratic, and it does not speak about such things as sexual identity that I want to see in the bill. So I don’t support it. I think we need to have a law that speaks explicitly of equality.
What was the purpose of your trip to Palestinian-controlled Ramallah in the spring?
I have been going there for the last four years and I have good friends living there. Most young Israelis ignore the fact that Palestinians are living next to us; they want to ignore them and we can’t..
What sticks out about your trip?
Palestinians live seemingly normal lives, but actually nothing is normal. There are restaurants and people have jobs, but if you dig deeper you will see that they have water only twice a week. As a result, all houses have water tanks on their roofs so they can save water. And their cost of living is very high.
In Palestinian neighborhoods controlled by Israel, the Palestinians live without services like ambulances, and trash is picked up only once every two weeks.
There are some in Israel who say a two-state solution is unworkable and that other alternatives must be pursued, such as annexing the land in which Israeli settlements lie and giving citizenship to the Palestinians who live within that area. Your thoughts?
This idea of unilateralism, which is being advocated by Naftali Bennett among others, ignores reality. We saw what one-sided actions accomplished when we left Gaza. And the number of Palestinians they are counting in the territories who would become Israeli citizens is wrong. They say it is 50,000, but it is estimated at three times as many.