Labour Party adopts Herzog’s separation plan from the Palestinians

Israel’s Labour Party yesterday officially backed a plan by opposition leader Isaac Herzog to pull out unilaterally from much of the West Bank.

Herzog outlined his plan at a security conference last month, saying “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 and integrating settlers from further afield within these areas. Last week, Herzog presented his plan to US Secretary of State John Kerry, who is said to have responded with interest.

Yesterday, hundreds of Labour Party activists endorsed Herzog’s plan at a convention at the Tel Aviv Fairgrounds. He told the convention, “The two-state vision did not die, but it will not happen tomorrow,” adding “What can be achieved today is security for the citizens of Israel and separation between us and the Palestinians.” Herzog described Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas as “two tired leaders,” saying that his plan would end the current violence and bring about a regional security conference.

A statement by the Labour Party, which alongside Hatnuah, comprises the Zionist Union, said that yesterday’s vote meant that “for the first time in decades” the party had “adopted a complete and comprehensive security policy outline.”

However, former-Labour Party leader and potential leadership rival, Shelly Yachimovich told Israel Radio that such unilateral action could see Israel lose its “last opportunity to speak with a secular, pragmatic, Palestinian leader.”

Yesterday’s convention also voted to delay a party leadership contest until later this year. Yachimovich, Amir Peretz MK, another former party leader and Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai are all thought to be considering challenging Herzog to head the party. However, in what is viewed as a boost to Herzog, Avi Nissenkorn head of the Histadrut trade union joined the party last week.