Labor pledges to give Netanyahu political cover for peace deal

Neither Herzog nor any of the other major candidates for Labor chairman said he would consider joining Netanyahu’s government, even if significant steps are made to advance a peace deal.

May 15, 2017 00:02
3 minute read.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu chairs the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem May 3, 2017. . (photo credit: REUTERS)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would receive a parliamentary safety net from Labor that would enable him to advance a peace process with US President Donald Trump, according to the major candidates for Labor Party leader.

The statements made by MKs and Labor contestants Isaac Herzog, Amir Peretz, Erel Margalit and Omer Bar Lev on Sunday came as Netanyahu clashed with Education Minister Naftali Bennett, who could remove his Bayit Yehudi Party’s eight lawmakers from the government if the diplomatic process advances. In that case, no matter who wins the July 4 Labor leadership race, Netanyahu could remain in power.

In a signal to his coalition partners that they should calm tension within the coalition, Netanyahu told them on Sunday that he expects to complete his current term as scheduled, in November 2019.

Channel 2 reported that Netanyahu even told Finance Ministry officials to start working on a state budget for 2019, when the current two-year budget expires.

Herzog called for a parliamentary safety net for Netanyahu to advance the peace process when interviewed at last Sunday’s Jerusalem Post Conference by Editor- in-Chief Yaakov Katz. Peretz added his endorsement of the idea in a letter to Trump.

“The opposition, under my leadership, will grant a full security net to any diplomatic effort that will lead to an end to the conflict and to a State of Israel that is democratic, secure and with a clear Jewish majority,” Bar Lev said.

A representative for Margalit, who is the most left-wing among the major candidates in the race, said, “Erel will give his support to any prime minister advancing diplomatic steps.”

Former environmental protection minister Avi Gabbay gave an ambiguous answer about the parliamentary safety net, saying that he does not believe Netanyahu has the courage to begin a real diplomatic process that will bring results.

“He runs away whenever it comes time for him to make a significant diplomatic decision, and he is leading Israel to be one state for two peoples,” Gabbay said.

Neither Herzog nor any of the other major candidates for Labor chairman said he would consider joining Netanyahu’s government, even if significant steps are made to advance a peace deal.

They also stressed that the safety net would apply strictly to diplomatic issues.

That could mean that the current coalition is the only possible one ahead of the next general election. Each of the partners in Netanyahu’s coalition have been flexing his muscles in recent weeks, since the prime minister threatened an early election over public broadcasting.

Bennett took his turn on Saturday night and Sunday. First, he released a statement slamming Netanyahu for endorsing a Palestinian state in his 2009 speech at Bar-Ilan University and for not publicly rejecting the two-state solution since Trump’s election.

“The speech and the agreement to form ‘Palestine’ brought upon us boycotts, terrorism and grave demographic threats, so now is the time to cancel it,” Bennett said. “This failed messianic idea has led to bloodshed, diplomatic deterioration and would bring about a diplomatic disaster.”

The Likud responded that Netanyahu has persuaded the world that Israel must remain a Jewish state, while Bennett has not done enough as education minister to advance the agenda of the Right.

When Bennett wrote on Twitter on Sunday that Netanyahu must insist on the US moving its embassy to Jerusalem, the Likud responded that he already has, numerous times.

“The Likud welcomes Bennett for copying the press releases of the prime minister, as if Netanyahu’s demands are his own,” the statement said. “That is what Bennett does on many issues, and that is what he has done with Netanyahu’s consistent demand to move the US Embassy to Jerusalem.”

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