Herzog blasted by opposition party chief for offer to split Jerusalem
Yair Lapid decries negotiation between opposition leader and Mahmoud Abbas as poorly managed, says it ‘weakened’ Israel’s left
Yesh Atid head Yair Lapid bashed opposition leader Isaac Herzog on Monday for allegedly offering the West Bank and East Jerusalem to the Palestinians in secret talks with PA President Mahmoud Abbas in 2014-2015, calling the move “dangerous and wrong.”
The criticism marked the opening of a rare rift between the two opposition parties, and came as Herzog has been pilloried by his own party for being an ineffectual leader in challenging the ruling coalition.
Lapid’s remarks came after Channel 10 reported Sunday that Herzog and Abbas worked through proxies ahead of Israeli elections last year to reach a framework for a future peace deal under which Palestinian refugees would receive financial compensation and the Western Wall would remain under Israeli control, Channel 10 news reported on Thursday.
Those talks fell apart after Herzog lost to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the March 2015 election.
During a weekly party meeting, Lapid took Herzog to task for the alleged agreement, calling it a “classic mistake of the left.”
The Yesh Atid leader took particular issue with Herzog’s plans to divide Jerusalem, giving the eastern parts of the city to the Palestinians and placing the Temple Mount under the control of a multinational force, except for the Western Wall.
“This was a dangerous and wrong move. Jerusalem cannot be divided,” Lapid said.
“This is a classic mistake of the left, which always runs to announce ahead of time what it’s prepared to give up. That’s not how you negotiate in the Middle East,” he continued.
Herzog confirmed the talks with Abbas, although he did not confirm the specifics, and asserted that had they come to fruition they would have forestalled the wave of violence that swept across Israel and the West Bank in late 2015 and early 2016.
“During the talks with the Palestinian Authority president in 2014, I made efforts aimed at reaching understandings that would have prevented the wave of terror that I anticipated, just like the efforts I am now making so that the abandonment of the initiative for a regional conference by the extreme right-wing government won’t lead us to another war,” he said. “After rounds of wars and funerals nearly every year and over the past decade, I won’t listen to the mantra that threats can only be subdued through military force.”
On Monday, Lapid also gloated over the recent reports that Netanyahu had plans to meet with US Secretary of State John Kerry to discuss the stalled peace negotiations with the Palestinians and the possibility of going forward with the French peace initiative.
“Two years ago, during the past government, I turned to the prime minister — also publicly — and warned of the international break we are seeing today. I propose to [Netanyahu] exactly what he’s doing today,” Lapid said.
“I warned him that if we didn’t do it, there would be attempts to force a solution upon us from outside,” added Lapid.
During the Taba Summit, the final chapter of negotiations between Israel and the PLO before the breakout of the Second Intifada in 2001, Israel reportedly offered 97% of the West Bank.
In 2008, during negotiations between then-prime minister Ehud Olmert and Abbas, Israel offered to retain 6.3% of the West Bank and offered 5.8% of Israel proper in return.
Abbas has said that negotiations with Olmert nearly led to an agreement, but then the former prime minister fell into legal troubles and was out of office.
Abbas said he also felt Olmert’s offer to accept a symbolic number of Palestinian refugees into Israel did not resolve the issue.
The current Israeli government is calling for direct negotiations with the PA, but the Palestinians are instead pinning their hopes on the French initiative, which calls for a regional and international approach to negotiations.