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Yacimovich calls for return to peace talks
By LAHAV HARKOV
23/12/2012
Labor leader lays out party's security-diplomatic platform, says socio-economic issues still her priority.
 
Labor presented its securitydiplomatic platform on Sunday, though party leader Shelly Yacimovich said socioeconomic issues are her priority.

“We are losing our moral compass as a society. Without social and economic issues at the fore, even peace won’t let us fulfill the Zionist dream. A fair society is a condition for maintaining a Zionist state,” Yacimovich stated.

The press conference followed reports in recent weeks of criticism from within Labor that Yacimovich did not sufficiently address these issues.

The central points of Labor’s security-diplomatic platform include an immediate return to peace talks without preconditions, strengthening relations with the West and rehabilitating and initiating new connections with moderate Muslim countries.

“We joined the last [Prime Minister Binyamin] Netanyahu government with promises of a diplomatic breakthrough,” former defense minister MK Binyamin Ben-Eliezer, who helped compose the platform, said.

“Four years were wasted, and nothing happened.

Netanyahu and [former foreign minister Avigdor] Liberman are the main reason for our isolation and the delegitimization process.”

Ben-Eliezer called to “take steps strengthening Israel to make sure we’re a strong country with a strong army and a clear Jewish majority, not a binational state.”

The former defense minister warned that, without a peace agreement, Israel could “turn into an apartheid state and lose our legitimacy as the country of the Jewish people.”

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According to MK Isaac Herzog (Labor), “Netanyahu says he wants two states for two nations, but he hasn’t done anything about it.”

“Dialogue only has advantages, especially when it comes to international legitimization,” Yacimovich said.

Labor prefers an agreement according to the “Clinton outline,” and would be willing to begin talks without preconditions.

Yacimovich explained that the party would preserve settlement blocs, and, while there would be no preconditions for negotiations, some basic commitments would be necessary to reach an agreement, such as ending armed conflict.

“Working toward peace and recognizing a two-state solution has nothing to do with hatred for settlers, especially since they were sent there by governments, including Labor governments,” she stated.

The word “settlers” was not mentioned once in the security- diplomatic platform, but Labor’s general platform mentions paying those who live outside the major blocs to voluntarily evacuate their homes.

As for Jerusalem, Yacimovich emphasized that Jewish neighborhoods would remain a part of Israel, and accused Netanyahu of undermining areas that are in consensus, or “in the Clinton outline,” by announcing construction before elections, as though it was a punishment for the Palestinian Authority for pursuing statehood recognition at the UN.

In addition, Ben-Eliezer’s plan says that Israel must make a coalition with “sane” Middle Eastern countries, improving relations with Egypt and Turkey and building ties with North African and Gulf states.

In connection to Iran, Labor says all efforts must be made, including sanctions, to stop the Islamic Republic from developing nuclear weapons, but that all options must remain on the table.

The security-diplomatic platform says that Israel must not get involved in the “complex crisis” in Syria. However, transfer of unconventional weapons from Syria to Hezbollah is “a red line that must be prevented.”

The party also discussed relations with the West and the importance of soft power.

“Think about this when you go to the voting booth,” Herzog said. “The day after the election, the person who was voted in will have to work with [US President Barack] Obama and [US] Secretary of State John Kerry, who won’t want more delaying. They’ll want a peace process.”

According to Herzog, Netanyahu will be unable to work with Obama and Kerry, but Labor can.

MK Nachman Shai, who moved from Kadima to Labor, criticized Netanyahu’s constant use of the word “strong” in his campaign.

“We can’t just live off of tanks and planes. There’s also soft power, a country’s values that determine its international status,” Shai, who wrote his dissertation on public diplomacy, explained. “The terminology of power that the prime minister and foreign minister use deeply harms Israel’s international status.”

Shai called for a “new order” in international relations, in which Israel declares it is strong militarily, but also emphasizes its Zionist vision, its Jewish morals and the values that tie it to other countries around the world.
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