Labor presents plan to kick-start ‘separation’ from Palestinians
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'3 paths to separation'

Labor presents plan to kick-start ‘separation’ from Palestinians

3-step policy proposal includes immediate end to building outside settlement blocs, legislation to compensate settlement evacuees, referendum on Palestinian Jerusalem neighborhoods

Raoul Wootliff is the The Times of Israel's political correspondent.

Labor leader Avi Gabbay (L) presenting the party's 'Palestinian separation plan' alongside (2L-R) candidate Tal Russo, MK Omer Barlev, MK Shelly Yachomovich and MK Amir Peretz, February 27, 2019. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)
Labor leader Avi Gabbay (L) presenting the party's 'Palestinian separation plan' alongside (2L-R) candidate Tal Russo, MK Omer Barlev, MK Shelly Yachomovich and MK Amir Peretz, February 27, 2019. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

Amid fierce speculation over the details of US President Donald Trump’s Middle East peace plan, Labor released on Wednesday the party’s platform for “separating from the Palestinians,” detailing key steps it says it will take to restart the moribund peace process.

“As a party defined by diplomatic initiative and the pursuit of peace, we are committed to working to ensure Israel’s future as a Jewish and democratic state,” reads the opening of the policy proposal titled, “Three paths to separation.”

The plan describes Labor’s long-term “diplomatic vision” as “a regional arrangement with the Palestinians and the moderate Arab states, in which a demilitarized Palestinian state will be established by our side.” But in an admission of the significant barriers that prevent breaking the current deadlock, the party admits that “this future vision is not attainable” in the near future.

“Israel must therefore take a political turn, to pave new paths to separation from the Palestinians, build trust between the sides, and reverse current trends that endanger Israel,” the plan says.

The party therefore says its security-diplomacy team, made up of former party chair Shelly Yachimovich, fellow former leader and former defense minister Amir Peretz, and former IDF generals MK Omer Barlev and new Labor candidate Tal Russo, has created “a detailed plan with a clear timetable and defined goals to reverse the dangerous trend of stagnation and annexation, and to remove the barriers we face on the way to separation.

View of the Givat Asaf outpost, near the Beit El settlement in the West Bank. (Miriam Alster/ Flash 90)

The three-step plan includes an immediate end to building outside settlement blocs, legislation to compensate settlers living outside the bloc to relocate, and a referendum on the future status of Palestinian neighborhoods on the outskirts of Jerusalem.

Labor leader Avi Gabbay said on Wednesday that he would demand the measures be adopted by the next government as a condition for Labor’s entry into the coalition.

According to the proposal, a cessation of all construction outside of the main West Bank settlement blocs must be announced immediately “out of a recognition that isolated settlements and outposts contribute nothing to Israel’s security and constitute an obstacle to future separation processes.”

Within six months from the establishment of the government, it must pass the Evacuation Compensation Law “to encourage the voluntary evacuation of citizens from isolated settlements outside the settlement blocs,” the plan continues.

Finally, within a year, a referendum must be held asking all Israeli citizens: “Should the refugee camps and Palestinian villages Shuafat, Isawiya and others be part of Jerusalem, the eternal capital of Israel?”

According to the plan, “In light of the commitment to preserve Jerusalem as the eternal capital of the nation-state of the Jewish people, Israel must courageously make a principled decision regarding the future of these refugee camps and villages. The current situation hurts Jerusalem and must be changed.”

Speaking at a press conference in Tel Aviv alongside the party’s security-diplomacy team, Gabbay said that the steps were necessary to achieving Labor’s long-term vision: “A broad regional arrangement with the moderate Arab states, separation from the Palestinians, and a secure State of Israel with a solid Jewish majority and a demilitarized Palestinian state alongside it.”

Labor leader Avi Gabbay (L) presenting the party’s ‘Palestinian separation plan,’ February 27, 2019. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

The plan, however, did not go into any specific details of what such a state would look like of how the key contentious issues — Palestinian recognition of a Jewish state, the status of Palestinian refugees, Israeli military presence in the Jordan Valley or the final status of Jerusalem — but rather said it would act as a basis to bring the sides together for negotiations.

Saying that Trump’s peace plan was an opportunity to end the stalemate, Gabbay on Wednesday railed against right-wing lawmakers.

“As long as we continue to implement the [Naftali] Bennett vision and build outside the blocs, we are increasing the problem and unilaterally seeking to prevent separation,” he said.

Education Minister Naftali Bennett speaking at a New Right party press conference in Tel Aviv on February 7, 2019. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

New Right chair Bennett launched a direct assault on Donald Trump Wednesday morning, accusing the US president of “planning a Palestinian state right over our heads,” and calling on him to release his closely guarded Middle East peace plan before Israel’s April elections.

‎‏”We all know the ‘deal of the century’ will be launched right after the Israeli elections, but we, the Israelis, are in the dark about the plan itself,” Bennett said in English-language comments during an address at a conference for local government in Tel Aviv.

The Trump administration has closely guarded details of its peace proposal, which the president’s senior adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner said last week would be released after the Israeli elections on April 9.

Kushner gave an interview earlier this week on the administration’s plan, saying it will focus on “establishing borders and resolving final status issues.”

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