Education Minister Orders: School Books to Reflect 1967 Borders

Education Minister Yuli Tamir, a former Peace Now member, has ordered her staff to ensure that textbook maps show the Green Line demarcating Judea, Samaria and Gaza.

Hillel Fendel , | updated: 10:33 AM

"How can we demand that the Arab world recognize our borders if we don't recognize the June 1967 borders?" Tamir says.

Haaretz journalist Akiva Eldar was not only the one whose query prompted the change, but also the one who broke the story this morning. In an op-ed accompanying the news article today, Eldar wrote that MK Yuval Shteinitz (Likud) says he knows Egypt is not bent on peace with Israel because "the maps in most of its textbooks show 'Palestine' in place of Egypt. It will be interesting to see," Eldar continued, "how Shteinitz and his friends on the right will react to Education Minister Yuli Tamir's instructions to... ascertain that the new textbooks demarcate the Green Line. Tamir says we cannot demand of our Arab neighbors to note the June 4, 1967 borders if our own educational system [does not recognize them]."

The Eldar/Tamir comparison overlooks the fact that while the Arab textbooks erase an entire recognized political entity, the Israeli maps simply take a position on areas that are in dispute. In addition, Egypt has signed a peace treaty with Israel recognizing its sovereignty in world-accepted borders, while the Palestinian Authority has no legal standing at all regarding the June 1967 borders.

Despite the above, Minister Tamir - a founding member of Peace Now who was active in the far-left Ratz party in the early 1980s - has instructed that the textbooks make the change.

Two former Education Ministers commented on the new plan. Former Meretz Party head Yossi Sarid said, "Israeli students must know that Israel's borders both in the north and the east are not final, and will be determined by negotiations."

MK Rabbi Yitzchak Levy (National Union), however - who immediately preceded Sarid as Education Minister in 1998-9 - disagrees with the new orders. He does not approve of Tamir's stance placing all of Judea and Samaria up for grabs, in keeping with Arab and Palestinian Authority demands to turn the entire area into an independent Arab state. "Tamir is trying to force her political opinions upon the students of Israel," Levy said. "Previous Education Ministers kept the Ministry free of political decisions of this nature."

Tamir responded to the criticism by saying that any decision made on this issue is a political one.

MK Zevulun Orlev (National Religious Party), a former Director-General of the Education Ministry, called upon Prime Minister Olmert to "put the brakes on the Peace Now policy in the Education Ministry blatantly dictated by Minister Tamir."

MK Ronit Tirosh (Kadima), who served as the ministry's Director-General under Limor Livnat, also condemned Tamir's decision. "She has overstepped her authority," Tirosh said. "She may not interfere with the contents of textbooks - but if she did, then she should have included the government members in her decision before issuing the new orders." MK Alex Miller (Yisrael Beiteinu) agreed with Tirosh.

In any event, implementation of the decision may not be feasible. Professor Yoram Ben-Gal of Haifa University’s Geography and Environmental Studies Department told Haaretz that most textbooks are published by private firms who are not likely to want to make the expensive change at their own expense. "The test will therefore be in the budget," Eldar opined.