Opposition leader Isaac Herzog, the leader of the Left, announced a surprising new diplomatic plan Tuesday that calls for completing the security fence around settlement blocs in the West Bank.
Herzog’s plan strays far from the policies of US President Barack Obama’s administration and European countries, which have made a point of repeatedly delegitimizing any construction over Israel’s pre-1967 borders, and are opposed construction of the barrier over the Green Line. Speaking at a conference of the Institute for National Security Studies, Herzog said he had not given up hope for a two-state solution, but that Israel should not wait for such a solution to be possible in order to take action.
“I want an agreement with the Palestinians but it is not currently possible to reach a deal due to extremists on both sides,” Herzog said. “I want to separate from as many Palestinians as possible, as fast as possible. Let’s build a large fence between us.”
Herzog said completing the fence around settlement blocs would protect them and send a message to the Palestinians that they will remain part of Israel. He said he envisions the settlement blocs absorbing settlers from isolated communities that would be evacuated.
“The situation will be clear to everyone,” he said. “We are settling here, you are settling there. Live your lives, improve your economy, deal with employment. Placing the blocs under Israeli sovereignty will be part of a final agreement.”
Herzog called for leaving Arab neighborhoods in Jerusalem outside the fence and encouraging the Palestinians to build and develop land on their side of the barrier.
Confirming for the first time that he had sought the formation of a national unity government, Herzog said he had checked the possibility of working together with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on separating from the Palestinians, but that the prime minister was afraid to take serious action.
“Israel needs to separate from Netanyahu in order to separate from the Palestinians,” he said.
Herzog’s speech concluded a day full of attacks on Netanyahu at the conference.
The day began with a warning fromd Education Minister Naftali Bennett (Bayit Yehudi), who is a member of the security cabinet, that his own government lacked strategic thinking.
Channel 10 later quoted Bennett calling Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon a failure in private conversations.
Netanyahu’s associates said Bennett’s comments were “worthy of laughter” and that he was just pandering to his right-wing extremist constituency. Herzog called upon Bennett to resign.
Former minister Gideon Sa’ar also attacked Netanyahu in his address to the conference, never mentioning him by name. He called for diplomatic steps, using a regional track.
“Passivity and being reactive has not served Israel on the diplomatic or security fronts,” he said. “Israel must be active and initiating. When we don’t initiate, we get dragged, absorb blows and don’t achieve anything.”
Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid told the conference that Israel’s international situation was the worst it has been in the country’s history. Israel’s worsening image harms its national security, he warned.