Storm of Protest Against Tamir Changes in Textbook Maps

Education Minister Yuli Tamir's order to return the Green Line to maps of Israel in new textbooks was met with a firestorm of protest.

Hana Levi Julian , | updated: 9:29 PM

Tamir, a former member of the Peace Now group, ordered her staff to ensure that textbook maps show the pre-1967 borders that separate Judea, Samaria and Gaza from the rest of Israel. “How can we demand that the Arab world recognize our borders if we don’t recognize the June 1967 borders,” she asked.

The Education Minister claimed that any decision made on this issue is a political one, but also insisted that she had made the changes in the interest of improving Israeli education. "We teach, for instance, about United Nations Resolution 242, but we don't show students the Green Line. We cannot deny that there used to be a border that is still being debated today," she said.

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said he spoke with Tamir about the order, but he stopped short of criticizing her decision. "There is nothing wrong with marking the Green Line. But there is an obligation to emphasize that the government's position and public consensus rule out returning to 1967 lines," he said.

Two former Director-Generals of the Education Ministry, from two different political parties, each had harsh criticism for Tami, however -- Zevulun Orlev and Ronit Tirosh.

Orlev, who is chairman of the National Union – National Religious Party, said the Education Minister was imposing her "Peace Now" ideology on the Ministry. Orlev, 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."

Kadima Knesset member Tirosh criticized Tamir’s declaration as well. “She has overstepped her authority,” she said. “The Education Minister is not permitted to interfere with the content of textbooks and should have consulted with the other members of the Knesset before making such changes,” she said.

The Likud faction charged Tamir with changing the national curriculum to fit her own political agenda, adding that she had ignored both the Jerusalem Law and the Golan Heights Law in order to make the changes. The faction also introduced a no-confidence motion over the proposal.

Two former Education Ministers also weighed in with comments about 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."

National Union Knesset member Rabbi Yitzchak Levy, who served as Education Minister from 1998 to1999 added his voice to the chorus of dissent, saying he did not approve of Tamir's stance on 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."

The most important political test, however, will ultimately appear in the budget, according to Professor Yoram Ben-Gal of Haifa University’s Geography and Environmental Studies Department. Ben-Gal told Haaretz on Tuesday that most textbooks are published by private firms -- who are not likely to want to donate the expensive change to the government.