Netanyahu Keeps Mum on Haaretz Report of His Planned Mideast Peace Initiative

Netanyahu says Israeli Labor Party trying to drag others into its internal party battles, says 'I won't go into it' when asked about document Haaretz revealed he sent Isaac Herzog.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu arrives at the cabinet meeting in Jerusalem, March 5, 2017.
POOL/REUTERS

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was asked at Sunday's cabinet meeting about Haaretz's report that he tried to advance a regional peace initiative and establish a unity government with Zionist Union leader Isaac Herzog.

As revealed by Haaretz on Sunday morning, Netanyahu sent Herzog a document six months ago on the launching of a peace initiative that includes readiness for territorial compromise and a curb on settlement building.

Netanyahu told the cabinet meeting that "there are battles in Labor that they're trying to drag us into with tales. Don’t be dragged away by leaks." He was referring to a secret deal reportedly struck by MKs Shelly Yacimovich and Eitan Cabel over the leadership of Labor, one of the factions making up the Zionist Union.

Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked noted that "it came from Kerry, not Labor," referring to the former American secretary of state, to which Netanyahu responded, "They're trying to drag us in to the mud-slinging."

Education Minister Naftali Bennett the asked, "So we know, was there or wasn’t there? What's the document?" Netanyahu responded, "I won't go into it."

Netanyahu sent Herzog a document six months ago containing a joint declaration for spurring a regional peace initiative and anchoring an Israeli unity government. The document reflected a willingness by Netanyahu for territorial compromise in a two-state solution with the Palestinians and a reining in of construction in the settlements.

Three weeks after sending the proposal and after sealing an agreement in principle, Netanyahu began to backtrack during the political crisis over the unauthorized West Bank outpost of Amona. Contacts between the two sides reached a dead end and finally collapsed in October.