(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Israel must work for a diplomatic solution to avoid international condemnation, opposition leader Isaac Herzog said Tuesday, after the British Parliament voted to call for its government to recognize a Palestinian state.
“This is another echoing failure from [Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu and [Foreign Minister Avigdor] Liberman. A cold wind is blowing toward Israel from every corner in the world, but they refuse to deal with the hard facts and are bringing a diplomatic storm,” he said.
Herzog (Labor) added that if he were prime minister, he would adopt the Arab Peace Initiative, as Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi suggested on Sunday.
“Netanyahu prefers to confront the whole world, from [US] President [Barack] Obama to other friends, in order to distract the public from his failure in lowering the cost of living and housing,” Herzog stated.
MK Nachman Shai (Labor) called the vote “a painful slap in the face.
“The British Parliament’s decision following the [statement of the] government of Sweden proves that the world is moving toward unilaterally recognizing a Palestinian state,” he said. “Israel is abandoning the diplomatic arena and is allowing unilateral Palestinian initiatives that will ignore Israel and force the rise of a Palestinian state without a peace agreement and without recognition [of Israel].”
Deputy Foreign Minister Tzachi Hanegbi said the vote will not help the Palestinians get a state.
“This won’t work. No Israeli government will accept significant risks in Judea and Samaria without a treaty. The Palestinians are not holding real negotiations and they’re losing time,” he said.
Hanegbi called for the Palestinian leadership to behave like former Egyptian president Anwar Sadat and former Jordanian King Hussein and analyze the needs of and risks for each side and reach a compromise.
Ahead of the vote, Agriculture Minister Yair Shamir said he is more concerned with the “Milky Protest” – which encourages Israelis to leave for countries with a lower cost of living – than with motions to recognize a Palestinian state in the UK and Sweden.
Shamir speculated about the motivations of the British Parliament, quoting his father, former prime minister Yitzhak Shamir, as saying “anti-Semitism is a disease that can’t be cured; sometimes it’s hidden and sometimes it’s seen.”
Knesset Land of Israel Caucus leaders MKs Yariv Levin (Likud) and Orit Struck (Bayit Yehudi) said the British Parliament turned its back to the 1917 Balfour Declaration, in which the UK’s foreign secretary committed to creating a Jewish national home in Mandatory Palestine.
They also accused the MPs of turning their backs on “the real problems of the world like hunger, diseases, bloody wars and radical Islam.
“The diplomatic attack [Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas] is leading against Israel in the diplomatic arena is a clear violation of all the agreements that he personally signed,” they stated. “The government of Israel must take immediate steps to punish the Palestinians and show Abbas, who continues to sit in his position thanks to Israeli security forces, that he will pay a heavy price for such unilateral acts.”
MK Ahmed Tibi (UAL -Ta’al), who lobbied UK MPs to support Palestinian statehood and attended the vote, said the result is a “yellow card for the Netanyahu government."
“Europe and the international community are sick of the continued occupation and the futile negotiations and said yes to the right of the Palestinian people to freedom and independence,” he stated.
Tibi expressed hope that the vote will bring a wave of support from Europe and lead to the end of the “occupation” and to the destruction of settlements.
He complained about Herzog writing British MPs and telling them not to support the proposal.
“The Labor Party led by Herzog failed morally by sending the letter,” Tibi said. “He acted as a future partner of the coalition led by Netanyahu and Liberman. A British Parliament member told me that the letter was pathetic. I think he’s right.”
Also Tuesday, Knesset Interior Committee chairwoman Miri Regev (Likud) wrote a letter to Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein calling for Tibi to be to be removed from the Knesset because he tried to convince British MPs to recognize Palestinian statehood.
“That is audacity,” Regev said of Tibi’s actions, in an interview with the Knesset Channel. “Tibi needs to be removed from his job. He can’t just travel as he wants; he can’t go [to the UK Parliament] personally and separate himself from his job as an MK.
“If Tibi wants to represent himself, personally, then he should resign from his job and go to the UK independently and convince whoever he wants,” she added.Gil Hoffman contributed to this report.