Herzog calls for separation from Palestinians, consolidation around settlement blocs

Opposition leader and head of the Zionist Union, Isaac Herzog, yesterday outlined his plan for Israel’s future relations with the Palestinians.

Speaking at the annual conference of the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS), Herzog said that under the current conditions, a two-state solution is not possible. He said that Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas “don’t have the leadership skills, the power or courage to make painful compromises” necessary and are “paralyzed by fear.” At the same conference yesterday, Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid criticised the Netanyahu government for a lack of initiative. However, Herzog said that under his plan, no steps would be taken which would undermine the possibility of a two-state solution in the future.

For now though, said Herzog, “I wish to separate from as many Palestinians as possible, as quickly as possible.” He proposed completing the West Bank security barrier around the three major settlement blocs of Gush Etzion, Ma’aleh Adumim and Ariel, which most assume will remain part of Israel under any future peace deal. As a result, Herzog said, “The situation will be clear to everyone. We will be here and you, Palestinians, will be there.” He explained that it will enable Palestinians to “Live your lives, improve your economy, create employment.” And at the same time, “The blocs under Israeli sovereignty will be part of the permanent solution. They will serve as recipients of settlers from outside the major blocs.”

Although the IDF would maintain military control over the entire West Bank, Herzog said that such an arrangement would hand the Palestinians full civil control of their areas, “to build new cities and expand existing ones, to develop agriculture, industry, employment.” At the same time, Herzog would promote a regional security conference, including neighbouring Arab countries to “build a united security front against extremist Islamic terror in the Middle East,” with “our separation from the Palestinians… an integral part.”