Labor chairman Avi Gabbay introduces the party’s plan for a withdrawal from communities outside the Judea and Samaria blocs and a Jerusalem referendum.
By World Israel News staff
Doing poorly in public opinion polls ahead of the April 9 Knesset election and criticized for abandoning any leading role towards achieving peace with the Palestinians, Labor has put forward a plan for “separating from the Palestinians.”
The plan describes a 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.” However, the party acknowledges that “this future vision is not attainable” anytime soon.
Therefore, as an interim move, Labor would propose “to pave new paths to separation from the Palestinians, build trust between the sides, and reverse current trends that endanger Israel.”
The three-step plan includes a halt to construction outside the existing blocs of Israeli communities in Judea and Samaria, legislation which would call for compensating Israelis who already live outside the blocs to relocate, and a referendum on the future status of Arab neighborhoods located on the outskirts of Jerusalem.
Labor leader Avi Gabbay said at a news conference on Wednesday that, after the April ballot, Labor would only join a government coalition that adopts his party’s plan. However, the party is not seen as a key partner in any such government, earning only eight seats in the latest opinion poll released Wednesday by the Number 10 Strategies company for The Times of Israel online newspaper.
The Labor timetable speaks of an immediate stop to construction outside the blocs, passage – within six months – of an evacuation-compensation law “to encourage the voluntary evacuation” of Israelis who live outside the blocs, and within a year, a referendum that would ask Israelis whether they considered the Arab villages and refugee camps in the Jerusalem area as a part of Israel’s eternal capital.
“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,” says the Labor platform.
In addition to the election, Gabbay’s announcement also came amid anticipation of the publication of a U.S. plan for Israel and the Palestinians, expected on the immediate heels of the Knesset ballot.
Israel carried out a unilateral withdrawal from the Gaza Strip and a small area of Samaria in 2005. The current Labor plan falls in line with calls made by various politicians over the years to take a one-sided step in Judea and Samaria, saying that such a move would serve Israel’s own interests and potentially improve trust on the part of the Palestinian Authority (PA).
Opponents have noted that the Gaza withdrawal was followed by a Hamas coup in 2007, unseating the PA in the Strip, and that Israel continues to be attacked, sometimes massively, from Gaza.