Israeli Labor Leader: If Peace Talks Fail, Israel Should Withdraw From West Bank Without a Deal

‘The Palestinians must reach a place where it’s worth it for them to reach a deal’

Labor leader Avi Gabbay.
\ Eliyahu Hershkovitz

Israeli Labor Party Chairman Avi Gabbay said Saturday that if negotiations with the Palestinians fail, Israel will have to withdraw from the territories unilaterally. “We must do all we can in order to hold genuine negotiations,” he said at an interview and current-events programs in Nes Tziona, south of Tel Aviv.

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“If, after all our efforts, it seems the Palestinians don’t want an agreement, we’ll have to take unilateral measures to guarantee that Israel forever remains the homeland of the Jewish people. The liberty to make such a decision is ours, not theirs,” Gabbay said.

“If there aren’t two states for two peoples, there will be one state with an Arab majority, and we don’t want to reach that situation. We are the ones who have to make the decisions and the Palestinians have to reach a situation where it is worth their while to reach an agreement.

"I believe we have to do everything possible to get to the negotiations stage and to build genuine mutual trust between the two sides so that we can make progress.”

Gabbay addressed the issue of an arrangement with the Palestinians at the annual conference of Tel Aviv University’s Institute for National Security Studies last week. In a keynote address. the Labor Party chairman said “We must separate from the Palestinians for ours and our children’s sake. We must, so that we can realize the great opportunity that has come our way for reaching a regional agreement with the moderate Sunni states.”

A Labor Party team headed by MK Omer Bar-Lev is revising the party’s platform on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, based on a two-state solution.

Gabby, Haaretz reported, plans to submit a resolution at the next party convention calling for “separating from the Palestinians on the basis of the principle of two states for two peoples.”

The move is in part a response to the recent Likud resolution in favor of annexing parts of the West Bank.

But it’s also a response to harsh criticism of Gabbay from the left, including members of his own party, over his “hard right turn” on various issues, including Israel and the Palestinians.

In October, for instance, he was slammed for saying in a television interview that a peace agreement doesn’t necessarily have to include evacuating settlements.