Herzog in NYT Op-ed: Separation Plan Is Necessary First Step to Two-state Solution

Leader of the opposition sets out his four-step plan for separating Israelis and Palestinians and re-establishing trust.

Labor Party leader Isaac Herzog speaking at his party's convention in Tel Aviv, February 7. 2016.
Moti Milrod

Opposition leader Isaac Herzog spelled out his new plan for separation between Israelis and Palestinians in a New York Times opinion piece on Sunday.

Herzog's plan, which was first presented at a conference of his Labor Party last month, envisages the implementation of several political and security steps as a prelude to reconvening negotiations toward a two-state solution.

"The hatred and distrust between the two peoples, fueled by extremists on both sides and compounded by the reluctance of leaders in Jerusalem and Ramallah, has forced me to conclude that a breakthrough toward an agreement is not foreseeable," Herzog writes.

"Continuing on the same path will not only fail again but will further erode Israelis’ and Palestinians’ faith in a two-state solution, convince the Palestinians that they can achieve statehood without negotiating and provide oxygen to the enemies of peace on both sides."

The new plan, he adds "reaffirms our strong commitment to a two-state solution by way of calling for immediate political and security measures, namely, the separation of Israelis and Palestinians.

"This, along with other steps I have proposed, will generate the climate necessary for productive negotiations in the future."

The opposition leader goes on to elaborate on the four steps of his plan.

The first is the completion of the security fence around the largest settlement blocs, which "will remain part of Israel in any permanent peace agreement, in return for land swaps."

He adds that "allowance [must be] given to ensure the territorial contiguity of Palestinian lands and prevent the isolation of Palestinian villages."

Secondly, Herzog calls for the "physical and political separation" of 28 Arab villages to the north and east of Jerusalem. Separating them from the city will leave a "unified, strengthened capital," as well as mitigating "the spate of Palestinian knife attacks that have originated in no-man’s-land neighborhoods and are facilitated by free access into the city."

Herzog's third step entails the halt of settlement activities beyond the major settlement blocs and the removal of illegal outposts. It will be accompanied by the "transfer [of] civilian powers and responsibilities to the Palestinian Authority," which will "empower it, improve its ability to counter terrorist activities in the West Bank and facilitate institution building.

He emphasizes that "the Israeli military will remain the only army in the territories up to the Israel-Jordan border."

The fourth step will be the convening of a "regional security conference, including those nations with whom Israel shares mutual interests, such as Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and the Persian Gulf states in order to formulate a plan to defeat the spread of extremism and terrorism emanating, separately, from the Islamic State and Iran."

He envisages concomitant steps in the Gaza Strip, with the goal of "establishing a long-term cease-fire, an integral part of which must be preventing the armament of Gaza and incentivizing its demilitarization."

The Palestinian Authority and regional partners must be party to Gaza’s economic development, Herzog says. "Israel will maintain its right to take action when terrorist organizations develop infrastructure aimed at harming our civilians, such as terror tunnels."

Herzog describes the program as "an emergency plan;" a series of trust-building measures "toward having each nation dwell in its own territory, stopping terrorists and generating economic development and governance in the Palestinian territories."

The ultimate goal is to prepare the ground for a two-state solution by isolating those who work against the interest of peace and showing the Palestinians a route to a better life, while creating a de facto two-state reality.

"At the end of the road, a negotiated two-state solution, recognizing Israel as the nation state of the Jewish people and Palestine as the nation state of the Palestinian people, remains the only way in which both sides can realize their aspirations," Herzog writes in conclusion.

"For this to be achieved, the process of managed separation must begin now."