Hundreds of Labor Party activists voted Sunday to endorse party leader Isaac Herzog’s plan to separate from the Palestinians at a convention at the Tel Aviv Fairgrounds.
The plan passed with little opposition at the event, in which Herzog was welcomed warmly and not heckled, as he was at a party event in Holon last week.
“The two-state vision did not die, but it will not happen tomorrow,” Herzog told the crowd. “What can be achieved today is security for the citizens of Israel and separation between us and the Palestinians, with actions, not mere words.”
Herzog’s plan calls for completing the security fence around settlement blocs. Settlers from isolated communities to be evacuated would be absorbed into the settlement blocs. Arab neighborhoods in Jerusalem would be outside the fence. He told the crowd that his plan would “end the third Intifada” and lead to a regional summit on security.
The crowd booed when Herzog mentioned the name of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who he referred to, along with Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas as “two tired leaders.” The crowd cheered when he asked the audience if they want to replace Netanyahu.
Labor secretary-general Hilik Bar, who sharply criticized Herzog’s plan two weeks ago, endorsed it at the convention, saying that party unity must come first. He called for ending internal disputes in the party and focusing on the party’s external rivals.
In an emotional address, MK Eitan Cabel told the crowd that the party would continue talking about peace and would not join Netanyahu’s government. Histadrut labor federation chief Avi Nissenkorn made his maiden speech as a Labor member at the event after joining the party last week.
The Labor activists voted to delay the next race for leader of the party by at least three months; another convention will be held to set dates for the leadership race, which was supposed to be held in May.
Herzog passed the proposal when there were only some 20 people at the event, five minutes after it started. Hundreds of people arrived later and were surprised to find out that the decision had already passed.
“That was a Barak-style political trick,” said a source close to Herzog’s rival, MK Shelly Yacimovich, referring to the former prime minister and head of the party, Ehud Barak.
Yacimovich declined to speak at the convention, which is a showcase of Herzog’s diplomatic plan for separating from the Palestinians.
He did face criticism however from the head of Peace Now, Yariv Oppenheimer, who has run for Knesset with Labor in the past.
“If we want mandates, we need to differentiate ourselves from the Likud,” Oppenheimer said. “Whoever copies Netanyahu will be irrelevant. If want to win the election, we should have the courage to tell the public what we believe in.”
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