Opposition leader Isaac Herzog meets Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah.
(photo credit: OFFICE OF ISAAC HERZOG (LABOR))
Zionist Union head Isaac Herzog, the leader of the opposition, held extensive talks with high-ranking PA officials prior to last year’s election to propose conceding 100% of the pre-1967 territories and declaring east Jerusalem the capital of Palestine, his spokesman confirmed on Monday.
A paper outlining the agreement, exposed by Channel 10 Sunday night, which was never formally agreed upon, included Herzog’s proposal to relinquish the West Bank and reach a deal to allow the right of return to Arab refugees in Jerusalem based on UN Resolution 194.
Herzog also reportedly agreed to allow 4% of Israeli settlements to remain in place in exchange for comparable pre- 1967 land allowances for Palestinians, to divide municipal responsibilities between east and west Jerusalem, and to have the Temple Mount overseen by an international third party.
Moreover, the proposal offered financial compensation to Palestinian refugees, while insisting that Israel retain the Western Wall and maintain a military presence in the Jordan Valley with Jordanian and Palestinians soldiers.
Former minister Efraim Sneh negotiated on Herzog’s behalf with an unnamed PA counterpart, using the Arab Peace Initiative proposed in 2002 as a blueprint for the talks, the report stated.
While Zionist Union spokesman Ofer Newman conceded on Monday that the negotiations took place, and confirmed the substance of the report, he claimed that Herzog ceased all negotiations with the PA immediately before running for the premiership.
“There were talks and a lot of understandings, and they made significant progress, but after the election was declared, Herzog stopped it all and said he would only resume talks after the election when he became prime minister.”
Newman added that Herzog was satisfied by the talks that meaningful peace negotiations were possible, and planned to immediately resume discussions before losing the election in a close race against Benjamin Netanyahu in March of last year.
According to Newman, the negotiations took place through much of 2014, until the election was announced, although he noted that Herzog and PA chairman Mahmoud Abbas did not meet in person.
“He met with senior advisers and contacts throughout the year,” Newman said. “All that is written in the paper substance-wise is true, but it was before the election and no agreement was signed,” he emphasized. “Those were the understandings they got to… but all talks stopped around October.”
In a formal statement, Herzog’s office said the opposition leader “made an effort to reach understandings that would have prevented the wave of terrorism, which I predicted.”
“After the rounds of the almost annual wars and funerals of the past decade, I am no longer prepared to listen to the mantra that says we can defeat every threat with only military force,” the statement continued.
In response to the revelation, Yesh Atid head Yair Lapid told a faction meeting that the negotiations were “dangerous” and “wrong,” adding that Jerusalem must not be divided.
“The Left can’t negotiate as long as there’s a government in Jerusalem,” he added.
Education Minister Naftali Bennett echoed Lapid’s sentiments, stating that Herzog cannot negotiate what is not his, and compared the negotiations with the PA as akin to attempting to sell the Brooklyn Bridge.
“No Jew or Jewish body has the authority – or even the whole Jewish people – to give up any part of the land,” he said quoting from Ben-Gurion.
“It is a right of the Jewish people... our right to the land exists forever.”
Bennett added that the Labor Party has strayed far too far from former leader David Ben-Gurion’s leadership. “What a distance between Labor then and now,” he said.
“Go back to your roots, Labor. We can be proud of our nation. You don’t have to try to divide our land all the time.”