Herzog meets with Abbas in Ramallah.
(photo credit: OFFICE OF ISAAC HERZOG (LABOR))
Zionist Union Party head Isaac Herzog called for a demilitarized Gaza and ducked the issue of a West Bank settlement freeze when he delivered a short foreign policy address at the Munich Security Conference on Saturday night.
“The powder keg of Gaza can explode at any minute. Gaza desperately requires economic reconstruction,” said Herzog, who is Netanyahu's chief rival in the March 17th election.
Should he be elected prime minister of Israel, Herzog told the Munich audience, he would call for a “a binding resolution calling for the demilitarization of the Gaza strip in exchange for very significant reconstruction.”
He added that this would be a kind of "a mini-Marshall Plan if you will.”
Such a plan he said, would bring quiet and tranquility to our border with Gaza for years to come.
“I invited the international community to be part of such a resolution," he said.
During this summer's war with Hamas in Gaza, Netanyahu issued a similar demilitarized call. Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip rejected it. Israel expects that any future Palestinian state in the West Bank, would be a demilitarized one.
Toward the end of Herzog's time on stage, the New York Times
asked him, “If you do become prime minister after March 17th, would you be prepared to suspend building of settlements, expansion of settlements in the West Bank while negotiations were going on?"
“There are many thorny issues between us and the Palestinians," Herzog said as he spoke globally about the conflict without addressing the settlement issue.
This is one of the worst periods in Israel's relationship with the Palestinians because they have opted to by-pass bi-lateral negotiations in favor unilateral measures, Herzog said.
“They are a frustrated and the Israelis are frustrated," he said.
Herzog attacked the Palestinians for preparing to sue Israel before the International Criminal Court for war crimes.
“The usage of the ICC as a diplomatic tool is totally unacceptable,” Herzog said.
“We will never allow our nation, and our IDF troops, to be drawn into a legal and political farce at the ICC. This is not the way forward,” Herzog said.
A two-state solution is “the only viable alternative for both Israelis and Palestinians,” Herzog said.
“My aim would be to reignite the process in a responsible manner with confidence building measures in conjunction with regional efforts that would help to reignite [talks]," Herzog said.
The partnership with Egypt and Jordan are vital toward the resumption of negotiations, said Herzog. He added that he intended to make this happen.
“I can not promise a successful outcome, I can promise a major effort,” Herzog said.
On the issue of Iran, Herzog said, “we will not allow an extremist regime to develop nuclear weapons and we spare no effort to stop it.”
It’s preferable to halt Iran's nuclear program by way of an agreement, he said, but such a document must ensure that such weapons will not be developed.
“We must focus on the concrete parameters of the agreement while keeping all options on the table and deterring Iran from any encroachment," he said.
A nuclear Iran, he said, is a “major threat to world peace [and] regional peace.”