The Labor Party unanimously approved opposition leader Isaac Herzog’s plan for separating from the Palestinians on Sunday night.
Herzog has been attacked by party members and the Israeli left as a whole for saying that the two-state solution is impossible under current conditions. But Labor members unanimously adopted his separation proposal as the party’s new diplomatic platform during a convention on Sunday.
The plan calls for taking steps to advance a two-state solution even if final-status negotiations cannot be held now.
Herzog also won a second victory on Sunday night, when shortly after the convention began dozens of early-arriving party members voted to postpone until May discussing the date of the next leadership primary. The stealth maneuver infuriating many party activists. The media were invited only later in the session, apparently out of fear that the proposal would create an uproar, even though the entire party leadership backed it.
MK Shelly Yacimovich, who has led the public opposition to Herzog’s diplomatic plan, left the hall even before the speeches began. MK Amir Peretz, another opponent, was also absent.
Herzog devoted the beginning of his speech to rebuffing criticism of his statement that a two-state solution was currently impossible. He began by comparing himself with David Ben-Gurion, who decided to establish the state even in “impossible borders” over fierce objections from within his own party. “Today it’s clear Ben-Gurion was right and his opponents didn’t see the ripeness of the hour,” Herzog said.
He then presented his own plan, noting that the party’s diplomatic platform hadn’t been updated since the height of the second intifada in 2002.
By adopting this plan, the convention also adopted Herzog’s controversial statement that “a full peace agreement unfortunately isn’t around the corner and at this stage; it’s not possible to realize the two-state vision. We must work by every means possible to preserve the two-state vision while separating from the Palestinians until it is realized.”
The plan states that Labor remains committed to the two-state solution and will prevent any slippage toward a single state. It says Labor believes Israel must retain control of the West Bank settlement blocs, complete the separation barrier to keep terrorists out of Israel and freeze all building in settlements outside the blocs.
In addition, it says Israel should expand the Palestinian Authority’s civilian powers by expanding Area B, the part of the West Bank where Israel has security control but the PA has civilian control, at the expense of Area C, which is under full Israeli control.
The plan says the Gaza Strip must be part of any final agreement — “any solution that doesn’t include the Gaza Strip will constitute a danger to realizing the two-state vision.”
The plans says Labor will endeavor to separate dozens of Jerusalem-area Palestinian villages from the city itself. Finally, it calls for engaging moderate Arab states, especially Egypt and Jordan, in the diplomatic process.
After Herzog spoke, MK Eitan Cabel gave an impassioned speech of approbation. “I support you with all my might. You’re my leader, our leader. You’ve brought the party its greatest achievement of the last 20 years. Everything depends on you,” Cabel said.
Cabel also rejected the charge that Herzog had abandoned Labor’s traditional role of championing “the path of peace.”
Peace Now Secretary General Yariv Oppenheimer, however, criticized the party for what he termed its hesitant stance.
“The Israeli public is in the center,” he said. “When it looks right, it sees a courageous, determined camp that’s going all the way with its positions, delusional though they are. When it looks left, it sees an apologetic, stammering camp that tries to curry favor.”
Oppenheimer said Labor must learn from Likud, “where people vie over who has the sharpest position ... where they almost toppled a government over two houses in Hebron. Without telling the public the truth and differentiating ourselves from the right, without telling the public the truth about the need for an agreement, the peace camp and the Labor Party won’t return to power,” Oppenheimer said.
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