Isaac Herzog, the leader of the opposition in the Knesset and the head of the center-left Zionist Union, admitted in an interview Wednesday that an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement is unrealistic in the near term.
“I don’t see a possibility at the moment of implementing the two-state solution,” he told Army Radio. “I want to yearn for it, I want to move toward it, I want negotiations, I sign on to it and I am obligated to it, but I don’t see the possibility of doing it right now.”
His announcement demonstrated a surprising change in thinking; in August, Herzog told Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas that a peace agreement that ensures security could be reached in two years, if enough goodwill was present. “Saying ‘There’s no chance, there’s no chance’ is the biggest mistake leaders make—Netanyahu and Abbas,” he later told Channel 2.
In the absence of an agreement, Herzog argued that Israel needs to reevaluate its security policy. “There is a need to form security policy in the mold of this reality, and this reality necessitates a separation from the Palestinians,” he said. In a surprising move for the leader of a dovish party, Herzog proposed that Israel should “complete the security fence around all of the settlement blocs. We are here and they are there.” He also called for “physically separating” Jerusalem from surrounding Arab villages “so that they can not come and stab us.”
More than 20 Israelis have been killed in Palestinian stabbing attacks since September. Jerusalem has been one of the focal points of the violence, with multiple attacks taking place inside or near the Old City.
Herzog also suggested a regional security conference with Arab nations, as well as confidence-building measures with the Palestinians. Such actions “would change the direction in which we find ourselves,” he said. He blamed both Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for the diplomatic impasse, saying that they “are incapable of moving forward” in negotiations.