Hollywood A-lister Richard Gere, who portrayed King David in the eponymously titled 1985 film and is perhaps best remembered for his lead roles in An Officer and a Gentleman, Pretty Woman, and Runaway Bride, is set to land in Israel later on Tuesday. But while the actor’s past visits to the Jewish state received warm welcomes, Gere, whose expertise and qualifications justifying his telling Israel what to do consist of his being a movie actor, may be greeted by a far chillier reception, following political comments made on the eve of his trip.
Gere’s visit, planned ostensibly for the premiere of his latest film, an Israeli-American production entitled Norman: The Rise and Tragic Fall of a New York Fixer, is already raising eyebrows in Israel over the actor’s scheduled meetings with far-left activists and a provocative interview with an Israeli newspaper, set to be published in full this Friday.
This is hardly the first time Gere has involved himself in the Israeli-Arab conflict; Gere met with left-wing Israeli activists and toured Ramallah in 2003 at the height of the Second Intifada, and he has maintained ties with the Peres Center for Peace for more than two decades.
But Gere’s comments to Yediot Ahronot ahead of his trip Tuesday expressed sharp rhetoric towards Israel that Gere himself admits has been absent from previous statements.
In the interview, part of which was publicized Monday night, Gere slams Israel, warning it is in danger of becoming an “apartheid state” and demanding the Jewish state put an end to the “occupation” and allowing a newly created Palestinian state to claim Jerusalem as its capital.
"On my past visits to Israel, I always listened to all the viewpoints,” said Gere. “Now that's become almost impossible. I know that a lot of people won't like what I have to say, but these are things that must be said.”
"The occupation must end. The occupation is ruining everyone on both sides. A bi-national state won't solve anything, it will only turn Israel into an apartheid state. There need to be two states for two peoples, and Jerusalem needs to be the capital of both nations."
Gere also took aim specifically at Jews living in Judea and Samaria, accusing them of dominating the Israeli government – despite the recent demolitions of the town of Amona and a neighborhood in Ofra.
"Why do you need all of these provocations,” Gere asked rhetorically, referring to Jewish homes in Jerusalem, Judea, and Samaria. “How is it that the settlers are running the Israeli government? And how is it that the State of Israel, of all countries, is ruling over another people? Many Israelis that I know say that the state has lost its way, and I think that every Israeli knows that." Gere is obviously not familiar with recent polls of Israeli citizens.
During his visit to Israel, Gere says he plans on meeting with activists of the radical anti-Zionist Breaking the Silence organization, which maligns IDF soldiers all over the world and is not allowed into Israeli schools.
"I recently spoke with someone from the group, who served in the army, a wonderful young woman with a big heart, and she's been labeled an enemy of the state. That breaks my heart.”