On February 23 2017, Yitzhak Herzog, chairman of the Israeli Labor Party, published a 10-point peace program in the Israeli daily, Haaretz. Herzog’s program came in response to a report released the previous week, which detailed Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s rejection of a peace initiative at a secret summit last year.
According to the report, the summit took place on February 21, 2016, in Aqaba, Jordan. It was brokered by (then) U.S. Secretary of State, John Kerry, and included Jordanian King Abdullah II, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, and Netanyahu. The purpose of the summit was to table and discuss a regional peace plan put together by Kerry.
Former U.S. officials claim that Netanyahu rejected the initiative, even though it incorporated his preconditions for negotiations (recognition of Israel as a “Jewish” state and regional cooperation). Netanyahu feared that accepting the plan would bring down his government.
Following the report’s publication, Israeli lawmakers from “centrist” parties criticized Netanyahu for rejecting the Kerry plan. The revelation added further fire to the already raging furor within the liberal Zionist camp over signs that the “peace process” is finally ending, and with it, the Zionist project in Palestine. These signs include the Knesset’s passage, on February 7, of the “Regularization Bill,” which grants legal (Israeli) recognition to over a dozen West Bank colonies built on private Palestinian land. It also includes U.S. President Donald Trump statements on February 15, signaling an openness to the “one-state” (apartheid) solution (thereby reversing two decades of official U.S. policy).
While Herzog presents his proposal as a courageous move to “save Israel from the one state disaster,” in reality, it simply re-packages already tried (and failed) paths to “peace,” such as the “Road Map” (2003) and the Oslo process (1993-2000). It also underscores the subordination of Palestinian rights to Israeli colonial objectives. In this way, Herzog’s vision for Israel/Palestine does not substantively differ from that of the “right-wing.”
Central to Herzog’s plan is a ten-year interim period, during which the West Bank would be a “place of non-violence” overseen by the Israeli military in cooperation with the Palestinian Authority (PA). This proposal merely re-iterates the colonial model enforced through Oslo and the Road Map, in which Israel maintains military control over the West Bank, but subcontracts certain areas to (subordinate) Palestinian security forces.
Under Herzog’s plan, the two sides would gradually implement steps towards final status negotiations, during the interim period. There would be a freeze in settlement building, but only outside of the major settlement blocs, which already bisect the West Bank. What is more, Israel would have the right to finish building its (illegal) separation barrier to “protect” settlement blocs and separate Jerusalem from the West Bank. As previously stipulated under Oslo and the Road Map, “civil powers” would be gradually transferred to the PA and economic development accelerated through international aid, in order to placate the Palestinians.
Assuming the interim period passes “without violence,” final status negotiations would commence. This, however, is an impossible order, since Israel would continue to occupy the Palestinian territories throughout the process. As with past peace plans, the status of Palestinian citizens in Israel, as well as the right of return, would remain off the table.
While Herzog’s plan mentions Palestinian sovereignty, as well as Gaza’s “rehabilitation,” as an end goal, neither sovereignty nor the rehabilitation process is defined or outlined. This is because Herzog, like his counterparts in the Israeli “right,” envisions not a single, sovereign Palestinian state but rather a demilitarized set of Palestinian bantustans.
Simply put, Herzog’s plan echoes already failed initiatives. By privileging the settlement blocs over Palestinian rights, it also compliments the “radical” agenda Herzog attributes to the right-wing, while illustrating the continuing slide of liberal Zionism into political irrelevancy.