Opposition head not sure Netanyahu can bring peace

Opposition head not sure Netanyahu can bring peace

Issac Herzog responds to AIPAC speech, says he agrees on substance, but skeptical PM can clinch a final deal

Marissa Newman is The Times of Israel political correspondent.

Labor Party chairman MK Isaac Herzog leads a party meeting in the Knesset on February 03, 2014 (photo credit: Flash90)
Labor Party chairman MK Isaac Herzog leads a party meeting in the Knesset on February 03, 2014 (photo credit: Flash90)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Tuesday address at the AIPAC policy conference in Washington drew little criticism from opposition chief Isaac Herzog for its content, though the Labor Party chief said he took issue with the speaker.

Herzog said he supported the positions espoused by Netanyahu, in which the prime minister called for a secure peace with the Palestinians and slammed the movement to boycott Israel. However, the Knesset opposition head said he had growing doubts that Netanyahu was the man to bring about a peace deal with the Palestinians.

“I agree with Prime Minister Netanyahu that security arrangements are a critical condition for any agreement, but believe less and less that he wants and is capable of being the one to lead us to a political settlement,” Herzog said.

Netanyahu gave full-throated support to making peace with the Palestinians in his address, though he said it would need to come with vital security guarantees and recognition from Ramallah of Israel as a Jewish state.

“I am prepared to make a historic peace with our Palestinian neighbors, a peace that will end a century of conflict and bloodshed,” Netanyahu said to a round of applause. “Peace would be good for us and peace will be good for the Palestinians.”

Netanyahu stressed the importance of keeping an Israeli presence, rather than relying solely on international troops, in areas that would be incorporated into a future Palestinian state.

International forces “eventually go home,” Netanyahu said. “So as long as the peace is under assault, the only force that can be relied on to defend the peace and defend Israel is the force defending its own home — the Israeli Army, the brave soldiers of the IDF.”

In his speech, Netanyahu also attacked the looming boycott threat, which is “on the wrong side of the moral divide” and will fail due to increased international interest in Israeli products and technologies.

Herzog, however, took a less optimistic approach on that issue. “I oppose with all my heart the boycott movement against Israel, but unfortunately it has become a strategic threat to Israel and political inactivity will only help its leaders,” he said.

The Labor head has said before that he is uncertain the prime minister has what it takes to make concessions with the Palestinians that would lead to a final agreement.

“I am not sure he (Netanyahu) has got the mental willingness and capability of doing that,” Herzog told The Associated Press in December. “And the same thing, I’m not sure whether Abbas has it.”

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