Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas have failed to meet the historic challenge of achieving a two-state solution, Opposition leader Isaac Herzog said on Wednesday morning.
“Both leaders have failed to meet and rise to the occasion,” he told the fourth annual Jerusalem Post Diplomatic Conference in Jerusalem.
As Israel closes in on the 50th anniversary of the Six Day War, “We have to ask ourselves, where is it going?” said Herzog (Zionist Union).
Jerusalem Post Diplomatic Conference: Isaac Herzog
“My question to the Prime Minister is – what is your vision 30, 40 or 50 years down the road? Is the vision a binational state or a Jewish democratic state?” Herzog pledged his continued commitment to a two-state solution. “I’m not willing to give up,” he said, urging Netanyahu and Abbas to display that same determination.
“In order to secure the future of a Jewish democratic state forever, we must separate from the Palestinians, not out of desire to leave important territories that are connected to our soul and our heart, but because of Realpolitik,” he said.
The alternative is violence and a binational state, he added, warning that “Anyone who wants to see what will be the fate of a binational state, needs to see Jerusalem in recent months.”
“I am not willing to accept the notion that we will live by the sword forever,” the Opposition leader said.
There is a silent Israeli and Palestinian majority that yearns for a different future, but Netanyahu must be willing to change the course of history, Herzog said.
“We have said from the Opposition, that we will be there to help him, exactly like we [the Labor party] helped [former prime minister] Menachem Begin in the  peace agreement with Egypt,” he added.
Netanyahu should take advantage of the region’s changing geopolitics that has brought together moderate Arab countries to combat ISIS and Iran.
“There is a coalition of strong moderate forces in the region that has a clear convergence of interests with Israel,” Herzog said.
Egypt, Jordan and Israel can be a strong trio that can become a quartet with Palestinian security forces working to contain terror, he said. From there this moderate coalition can be expanded to the Gulf States, including Saudi Arabia. Then the Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations can be reignited within a multilateral framework, Herzog described.
“The goal of history, the request of the people and the call of the next generation demands that all moderate forces sit down and start talking and try to understand how one can reach peace, in spite of the difficulties.
There are innovative ideas outside of the box. Let us stop blaming each other and start working, otherwise what we are seeing now is enormous tragedy,” Herzog said. “Reality can be changed on the ground; hope can be given to the people.”
The Opposition leader said he supported the Security Cabinet’s decision on Tuesday to outlaw the northern branch of the Islamic Movement, because it has worked to undermine Israel’s democracy. But, he said, the cabinet should also outlaw the “racist” Lahava organization, which “spreads hate” and undermines Israeli democracy.
Herzog called on the government to defend Israeli democracy from extremists on both sides.