Meretz leader wants to be on peace talks team

Horowitz warns Trump plan looks like ‘political scam’

LABOR’S AMIR PERETZ (left) and Meretz leader Nitzan Horowitz join forces on Monday. (photo credit: LABOR-GESHER PARTY SPOKESPERSON)
LABOR’S AMIR PERETZ (left) and Meretz leader Nitzan Horowitz join forces on Monday.
If Blue and White leader Benny Gantz forms the next coalition, his government should restart peace talks with the Palestinians and include Meretz in Israel’s negotiating team, Meretz leader Nitzan Horowitz said.
Horowitz made the remarks on Wednesday in an interview with The Jerusalem Post a week after US President Donald Trump unveiled his “Deal of the Century” Middle East peace plan, which the Meretz leader sees as deeply flawed but with a distinct silver lining.
“We are very pleased that the peace issue is back on the table and that there will be no unilateral annexation before the election,” Horowitz said. “I am pleased that the Israeli right wing finally accepted the idea of partition and the two-state solution. I hope the next government will start a real peace process.”
Horowitz led the Democratic Union in the September election but agreed to be third, behind Labor leader Amir Peretz and Gesher head Orly Levy-Abecassis on the united Labor-Gesher-Meretz list, in hopes of being part of a government led by Gantz.
“I hope Gantz forms a government – and as his coalition partner, we will try to take him to the right track, which is direct negotiations with the Palestinian Authority,” Horowitz said. “The way to do a peace deal is between the sides. The address is in Ramallah. The answer needs to be strengthening Labor-Gesher-Meretz so we can have a major influence in his government. If Gantz builds a government with the right wing, the outcome would be clear.”
Horowitz said he was relieved Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu changed his mind and announced on Tuesday that he would only try to annex West Bank territory after the March 2 election. Despite being the leader of the most left-wing Zionist party in the current Knesset, Horowitz said he did not oppose Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, moving the US Embassy to the city and endorsing Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights, but he would have preferred more of an effort to solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
“I was not against those move, but [did] they help solve the problem and bring us closer to a solution?” Horowitz asked. “These are not substantial moves to solve the conflict. He put up a plan but didn’t discuss it with the Palestinians. He discussed it with Netanyahu and the settlers; that’s just half the Israeli side.”
HOROWITZ REVEALED that the Trump administration never met with him about the plan. He also criticized the timing of its announcement.
“You don’t announce a deal like that one month before the election, on a day Netanyahu is being indicted on very serious charges,” Horowitz said. “It looks like a political scam. That’s not the way you make peace. The US administration should have waited for the new Israeli government and then invite both the Israelis and Palestinians to Washington.”
Horowitz praised Trump’s progressive Democratic opponents, singling out Bernie Sanders and Iowa caucus winner Pete Buttigieg, who like Horowitz is gay. But he said he opposed the idea raised among progressive candidates of withholding US aid from Israel as a punishment for settlement construction.
“They’re not anti-Israel,” Horowitz said. “They’re pro-Israel. Sanders even worked on a kibbutz. They want a solution for Gaza, where the situation is dire, and they are right that it’s time to do that. The solution to them criticizing Israel is not to cast out the entire Democratic Party – or boycott J Street and progressive Jews in the US – but to solve the problems they raise.”
Horowitz said Netanyahu and his policies on diplomatic issues and on matters of religion and state are to blame for the problems the Israeli right wing has with the Democrats and the loss of bipartisan support.
“Many US Jews have a problem supporting Israel, and it reflects on the Democratic Party,” he said. “When the prime minister takes sides in American politics and overwhelmingly supports the Republican Party, it is a problem. We also need to end the monopoly of the Orthodox sector on religious affairs.”
Horowitz expressed hope that if Gantz is elected, there could be significant changes on religion-state issues, such as enacting civil marriage, recognizing the rights of the LGBT community and expanding nationwide the public transportation on Shabbat project that Meretz initiated in the center of the country.
“Nowhere else in the world is there no public transport on the weekend,” he said. “There are too many cars, so we need to encourage public transportation. We won’t be able to do that if we don’t give people the freedom to get to places on their day off without owning a car. The next government can do that. Civil issues have been stuck under Netanyahu and can soon finally be moved forward.”