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Opposition leader Herzog calls for early elections

Publicized: April 7, 2014

The Knesset plenum held a special session on Monday at the request of 25 parliamentarians to discuss the crisis in the peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians and the government`s failure to bring about the release of Jonathan Pollard.

Addressing Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman`s (Likud-Yisrael Beitenu) statement that he would rather hold early elections than go back to the ”grand deal” to extend peace negotiations which would have seen Israel release 26 terrorists, in addition to 400 other Palestinian prisoners of Israel`s choosing, Opposition leader MK Isaac Herzog said, ”This is a real solution for the State of Israel to end the deadlock this government has led to in all fields.”

”If Liberman wants to go to elections, we will go to elections,” said the chairman of the Israel Labor Party. ”We are on the edge of a volcano and the public does not understand the severity of the situation, and all of the blame is on a prime minister who is incapable of doing anything. The entire process has collapsed because as far as (Benjamin) Netanyahu is concerned there is no place for taking real steps for peace. This is why I call on Hatenua and Yesh Atid to quit the coalition and join us.”

”There has been a lack of basic trust and minimal dialogue between Netanyahu and Abu Mazen (Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas) since the negotiations commenced. Abu Mazen should have come here and addressed us, and Netanyahu should have gone to the Palestinian parliament – but all this did not happen,” Herzog told the plenum.

”Last week,” Herzog continued, ”I met with King Abdullah (of Jordan). We must hear our strategic partner in order to understand that there is no choice other than reaching an agreement with the Palestinians. It is true that Abu Mazen is a tough, irritating and infuriating partner, but he is the partner and we have no other choice. This is a government that does not offer hope; it offers depression. Liberman spoke the truth. There is no way out. Let`s go to elections and ask the people.”

Meretz Chairwoman MK Zahava Gal-On told the session, ”We have a government that conducted diplomatic negotiations with the sole purpose of serving the political survival of its coalition partners. Does it seem serious to you that the foreign minister is conducting a zigzag policy? This was true with regards to (US Secretary of State John) Kerry`s outline, which (Liberman) supported two months ago and today he rejects it, and this is also true for the release of prisoners, which he voted in favor of in the past and now he opposes it.”

”I have no expectations of Liberman and (Naftali) Bennett (HaBayit HaYehudi), but what about (Hatnua chief Tzipi) Livni and (Yesh Atid leader Yair) Lapid, who swore they would not sit in a government that did not promote a diplomatic process? They are becoming collaborators of Netanyahu`s government. They distinctly declared that they would not sit in a government that did not hold negotiations. They care only about their seats,” Gal-On charged.”

”This government does not really want to reach an accord, and Livni and Lapid are sitting in the government and giving legitimacy to the transfer of funds to the settlements…they are no more than fig leaves which grant legitimacy to pointless negotiations. This government is draining our pockets and destroying our future,” the Meretz party leader said.

MK Ahmad Tibi (Ra`am-Ta`al-Mada) told the plenum that the ”establishment and the media” are working to create the impression that the Palestinians are to blame for the stalemate. ”The goal of the negotiations was not to reach an agreement, but to expose the Palestinians` `true face,` as Netanyahu himself said. Meaning, the prime minister aimed for a non-agreement from the beginning. The talks are a waste of time; their only purpose is to hold the coalition together,” he said.

Tibi stated that the government was trying to ”extort” the US when it asked Washington to release Pollard as part of a deal that would jumpstart the peace negotiations. ”What does Pollard have to do with the deal?” Tibi asked.

The MK referred to the proposal to revoke the Israeli citizenship of Israeli-Arabs who may be released as part of a possible deal as ”insolent,” adding, ”Have you ever considered revoking the citizenship of Jews who murdered and are due to be released? No. So why (revoke the citizenship) of Arab citizens? This is racism and discrimination. Arabs who are citizens of Israel have been released in every prisoner exchange deal. Now suddenly they cannot be released? While in prison they (Arab-Israelis) are Palestinians whose terms are not commuted, but during negotiations they are suddenly Israelis.”

Tibi agreed with the calls for early elections in light of the stalled peace talks. ”A senior American official said there was progress during the meeting between Livni and (chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb) Erekat, but this is a lie.”

Deputy Minister Ophir Akunis (Likud-Yisrael Beitenu) replied: ”You know this through your connections from the time you were (Yasser) Arafat`s advisor?”

In response, Tibi said: ”Arafat was a great leader, and I am proud to have been his advisor.”

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