It’s always amusing to read Gideon Levy criticizing someone else for using cliches ("The left’s counter-terrorism unit," Haaretz, August 20). After all, Levy is the expert in the use of cliches. He has been singing For the same song for years, publishing the same article and the same text, twice and sometimes three times a week: "Occupation, occupation, occupation and once again occupation; only the Jews are to blame and only the Palestinians are right." Levy has been a one-trick pony since way back in the 1990s.
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My meeting with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) this week lasted for an hour and 15 minutes. We sat privately and conducted a penetrating, detailed and in-depth conversation. Too much time has passed since an Israeli leader sat with Abu Mazen and spoke to him directly and at length. He is afraid of the unbridled terror. He is doing quite a lot to combat it, but is very concerned by the fact that we may be on the brink of a third intifada, and that it is liable to erupt on his watch. Under his responsibility. He is particularly concerned by the stagnation and by the lack of hope on the diplomatic front.
I described my viewpoint to him; I explained that I want to take take my party back to the path of late Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, which means a tough and uncompromising war against terror, and at the same time, a courageous diplomatic initiative. As I told Abu Mazen, in the war against terror I really am more extreme than Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. His policy of speaking to Hamas and isolating Abu Mazen will lead to Abu Mazen’s resignation and to Hamas taking control over Judea and Samaria. Hamastan five minutes from Kfar Sava. That’s not how to fight terror and its leaders.
On the other hand, I see a rare regional opportunity, with other countries in this region - which are also threatened by the ISIS crazies and the Iranian sweet talk - as well as Israel and Gaza, which want to continue the quiet and are willing to think about rehabilitation and calm, have a shared interest in moving towards direct peace negotiations between Israel and the PA. That’s the key, and that should be encouraged. We must not award a prize to Hamas, but rather foster calm and turn the PA into a partner - and there are plenty of means available of doing so.
Towards the end of the burning-hot summer there is such a moment, in which it is possible to restore hope to the region.
But people like Levy are stuck in the 1990s and fail to understand that it’s impossible today sit down around the negotiating table with the Palestinians and to emerge, locked in a brotherly embrace, moments later with a with full peace agreement that features a return to the 1967 lines and a division of Jerusalem. Levy writes as though he hasn’t been here in recent years. In a previous article he mocked me because my wife and I gave our blessings to the cadets in a pilots’ training course. Levy used to be a Zionist. I’m no longer sure that he is one.
After Gaza fell into the hands of Hamas, and the State of Israel was attacked with missiles, and tunnels were dug under dining rooms on kibbutzim in the south, it’s no longer possible to continue talking only about a bilateral agreement with the Palestinians. We have to talk about a trailblazing diplomatic move, supported by the moderate countries in the region.
Levy thinks that the Palestinians are always right. That the terror attacks against us are their natural right. That a boycott against the Jews is the imperative of the hour and that the time has come for U.S. President Barack Obama to impose the same kind of sanctions that he imposed on Iran on Israel. In effect Levy, like the messianic right, is leading to a state with an Arab majority between the Jordan and the Mediterranean.
In contrast, the huge camp that I lead loves Israel and wants a Jewish and democratic state, existing alongside a Palestinian state in security and peace. Only when I and the leadership of the huge camp I represent prove that in defense of the country, on security issues and in times of danger, we always side with the state, and only afterwards do we have time for debates and disagreements. Only then will we be able to win the trust of the majority in Israel and to bring these ideas to fruition.
I believe that leadership is always obligated, while adhering to its values, to make a tactical recalculation. Not to close its eyes in the face of what is happening - and always to be daring enough to confront a changing reality and to try to change the present and the future.
MK Isaac Herzog is the opposition leader and chairman of the Zionist Union faction.