sraeli lawmakers attend a vote on a bill at the Knesset, the Israeli parliament, in Jerusalem February 6, 2017.
(photo credit: AMMAR AWAD / REUTERS)
The Knesset’s caucus for a two-state solution convened on the final day of the parliament’s summer session Wednesday and pleaded for its cause to be taken up by a new leadership that could challenge Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Organizers of the event said new Labor chairman Avi Gabbay could not attend the meeting due to “scheduling conflicts” but said the next event of the caucus would be coordinated with him.
“Gabbay is a great supporter of two states and I hope to see him here next time,” said Polly Bronstein, director-general of the Darkenu organization that sponsors the caucus. “I think he should be leading the effort to bring about separation from the Palestinians. Most Israelis identify with the effort but someone needs to lead it.”
The head of the caucus, MK Hilik Bar of the Zionist Union, whose principal component is the Labor Party, expressed hope that Gabbay will be the leader who can advance a peace process and said that on the Palestinian side there will never be a perfect partner who is a Zionist with pictures of Theodor Herzl and David Ben-Gurion in his office.
Opposition leader Isaac Herzog, who Gabbay replaced as Labor leader on July 10, expressed pessimism at the event. He recounted his efforts to ignite a regional approach to solving the conflict that did not bear fruit because of Netanyahu’s decision to prefer Yisrael Beytenu over Labor in his coalition, and lamented that the region could look very different now if the prime minister made a different choice.
“I don’t think an agreement can be reached now between us and the Palestinians,” Herzog said. “A regional opportunity is burning beneath the surface like a geyser but instead of taking advantage of it, we keep on returning to cycles of violence. The present situation would make it hard for any US president to advance peace, so unfortunately I am not optimistic at all at this time.”
Zionist Union MK and veteran peace negotiator Tzipi Livni said she was considered that Netanyahu had misled President Donald Trump that he cannot advance a diplomatic process with the Palestinians due to his right-wing governing coalition.
“After the Palestinians removed their preconditions for talks, there is a historic opportunity to advance a new diplomatic approach, but I hope the window for it hasn’t closed,” Livni said. “I’m very worried that Netanyahu is succeeding in persuading Trump that he can’t move forward but I hope Trump still tries to do what Obama didn’t succeed in doing.”
Veteran Palestinian journalist and peace activist Elias Zananiri mocked Netanyahu for supporting a regional approach to solving the conflict without enough outreach to the Palestinians, and Trump for talking about reaching a big deal without considering past diplomatic initiatives.
“To deal with a regional approach without the Palestinians is putting the cart before the horse,” Zananiri said. “Trump talks about the ultimate deal. But already in 2002, the Saudis presented the Arab [Peace] Initiative, which is still relevant and could result in 57 Muslim countries normalizing relations with Israel in return for withdrawing to pre-67 lines.”
Meretz chairwoman Zehava Gal-On said she disagreed with a suggestion by Bronstein to focus on separating from the Palestinians when selling the twostate solution to the Israeli public. GalOn said the buzzword should still be not separation but peace.
“Peace might sound like a big word, but I don’t accept that the word distances people,” Gal-On said. “We have to tell the public the truth: There is a price but we must pay it so the next generations won’t pay a price in blood.”