JERUSALEM—The leader of Israel’s Labor Party, for which a two-state solution has been the primary plank of its political platform for decades, said Tuesday that its realization was not a possibility at the present time.
"There’s too much hatred and incitement," said Knesset Member Yitzhak Herzog at a conference of Israel’s Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv. "I want to yearn for it, I want to move towards it and I am obligated to it, but I don’t see the possibility of doing it right now." Herzog is leader of the opposition.
Speaking against a background of almost daily stabbings and other violence by "lone wolf" Palestinians, he called for physically separating the Israeli and Palestinian populations as much as possible. This should include, he said, completion of a barrier around Israeli settlement blocs in the West Bank in order to improve the residents’ security "and to send a message to the Palestinians that (the settlements) will remain part of Israel in any future negotiations." He also called for "physically separating" Arab villages abutting Jerusalem from the capital itself.
"I want to separate from as many Palestinians as possible as quickly as possible," he said. "You exist there and we exist here."
His message differed sharply from the traditional Labor Party position calling for a Palestinian and a Jewish state living peacefully alongside each other. Labor Party prime ministers such as Ehud Barak have negotiated with Palestinian leaders about dividing the land between the two peoples but an agreement was never reached. The last attempt at negotiations, initiated by the United States, collapsed two years ago.
Said Herzog: "The romantic notions of some on the left that tomorrow morning we offer a hand in peace and the Palestinians immediately shake it are just wild dreams."
He attacked Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for allegedly rejecting his call for confidence-building measures with the Palestinians. Such gestures, he said, "would change the situation in which we find ourselves." Netanyahu has blamed the Palestinian leadership for refusing to negotiate and for refusing to accept Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state.
Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, who also spoke at the conference, said that if Syria were to fall to either Iran or ISIS, he would prefer that it be ISIS. Syria remains Israel’s major threat, he said, even after its nuclear agreement with the international community. Describing the government in Tehran as a "rogue regime," he said it had a terror infrastructure in place in both North and South America as well as Africa, Europe and Asia.
"ISIS is suffering serious defeats in Iraq and Syria," he said. It will eventually be defeated territorially, he predicted, because of the blows by the US-led coalition and the attacks on its oil reserves. Ya’alon gave little weight to the Russian attempt to retake Syrian territory from the jihadists for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
"The Russians thought they would get to the Euphrates in three months," he said. He called for strengthening local forces in Syria "who have boots on the ground" like the Kurds.
Meanwhile, Israel’s Shin Bet security service said Wednesday that the son of Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah, Jawad, had recruited via the internet a five-man terror cell in the West Bank. The Palestinians had been instructed to prepare an operation involving suicide bombers. "Hezbollah is trying to ride the current wave of terror," said a Shin Bet statement, "and to fan the flames." The alleged cell members have been detained.