Israel must go to general elections after Operation Protective Edge ends in order to choose whether to kick-start peace negotiations with the Palestinian Authority or not, opposition leader and head of the Labor Party Isaac Herzog said Saturday. He made clear his conviction that a resumed peace process, involving a partnership with the Palestinian Authority’s Mahmoud Abbas, was vital for Israel.
“The Israeli people will face a tough decision [after this conflict],” Herzog said during an interview with Channel 2. “Do they see a future for the two-state solution, or not, which is why I think that after this military campaign, we must go to elections.”
The Labor party head asserted that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government had failed to better the Israeli public’s situation on almost every front.
“We’re on the verge of an economic catastrophe, not to mention the dead end on the diplomatic front regarding the peace process, which in its way, has led us to where we are now,” he said.
Herzog criticized the prime minister for not working together with Abbas, “who belongs to the moderate axis in the region,” and said Netanyahu had instead indirectly strengthened Hamas, by calling off US-brokered negotiations with Abbas in April.
“I’m not here to defend Abbas. Abbas is a rival, but he’s a rival who recognizes the state of Israel and says ‘I will not use terror,’” Herzog stressed.
“We must give hope to the Israeli people, we can’t live like this forever.”
Herzog said the leadership must reach the conclusion that Israel cannot keep on holding on to the West Bank as whole.
“We can’t keep [millions of] Palestinians in a pressure cooker,” he went on. “Those who want the West Bank to be, God forbid, like Gaza, should continue on this path. Those who don’t, must pursue a brave [peace] process,” he said.
The opposition leader added that Netanyahu should have immediately resumed talks with Abbas while operating against Hamas in the Gaza Strip.
“We must hit Hamas as if there are no peace talks with Abbas, and pursue peace talks with Abbas as if we are not hitting Hamas,” he concluded.
Earlier Saturday, Egypt called for an open-ended truce in the Gaza Strip, urging the Palestinians and Israel to return to indirect talks.
The call from the Egyptian foreign ministry came shortly after Abbas met with Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi in Cairo. Israeli government spokesman Mark Regev had no immediate comment on the Egyptian call.
A temporary Israel-Hamas truce collapsed on Tuesday, when Hamas breached the quiet and restarted rocket fire on Israel, bringing the Egyptian-brokered talks to a halt. More than 2,000 Palestinians have been killed since the Gaza war began on July 8, Palestinian officials say. Gaza-based human rights groups claim over 70% of those killed are civilians, while Israel asserts that 750-1,000 of the dead are Hamas and other gunmen. Israel also blames Hamas for all Gaza civilian casualties fatalities, since Hamas set up its rocket-launchers, tunnel openings and other elements of its war machine in Gaza neighborhoods and uses Gazans as “human shields.”
Sixty-eight people have died on the Israeli side: 64 soldiers and 4 civilians, the latest a four-year-old boy killed by mortar fire on Friday. Four-year-old Daniel Tragerman is to be laid to rest on Sunday.