Veteran Zionist Union MK Eitan Cabel caused an uproar over the weekend, when he announced his support for applying Israeli law to West Bank settlement blocs while freezing construction beyond the blocs until both Israel and the Palestinians have what he called “a Nelson Mandela.”
Cabel wrote in the left-wing Haaretz newspaper that the “Oslo paradigm” that began with the negotiations in the Norwegian capital when Yitzhak Rabin was prime minister 25 years ago had failed and that a new pragmatic approach was needed. According to Cabel’s plan, Israel will define what the settlement blocs are and apply Israeli law to them, while freezing and evacuating communities beyond the blocs and compensating their residents who leave.
“This is a plan to save chances for long-term peace,” Cabel told The Jerusalem Post. “My ideas come from my fear that Israel will become a binational state while there is no one on the other side that can or wants to talk to us. Every day that passes makes the situation harder to solve.”
Cabel said he intended to push his plan in a nationwide campaign, including in Judea and Samaria. He stressed that he was still a “proud left-winger” and believer in two states for two peoples, and said he was glad that his article has led to ideological debates in his party and the country.
Labor leader Avi Gabbay, who was not consulted about the plan, distanced himself from it and said it would not become party policy.
“In a democratic party, everyone can have their opinion, but Labor is for separation, not annexation,” Gabbay told Channel 2’s Meet the Press program. “Separating from the Palestinians must come as part of an agreement. I am not in favor of a unilateral step. I think in negotiations we can reach better results than without them. This is the best time for negotiations because of our alliance with the US and because the Arab countries want peace.”
Bayit Yehudi leader Naftali Bennett praised Cabel on Twitter on Friday and took credit for persuading first the Likud, then Cabel to adopt his ideas of applying Israeli law to parts of Judea and Samaria. Cabel responded on Twitter by daring him to back freezing settlements outside the blocs.
Activists in Labor called for banishing Cabel from the party. Mickey Gitzin, the director-general of the New Israel Fund, said Cabel was making a big mistake.
“I don’t think what he is calling for will lead to two states,” Gitzin said. “You don’t cause separation by annexation. But at least he put ideology back on the table.”
Gitzin was more critical of Zionist Union MK Nachman Shai, who hopes to run for Jerusalem mayor on the Labor ticket. Shai angered Gitzin and other figures on the Left by telling the Post two weeks ago that he is “not a candidate from the Left” and telling the right-wing Makor Rishon newspaper Friday that calling him a leftist was “a stain” that he intended to fight.
“Nachman distancing himself from the Left is both shameful and ineffective,” Gitzin said. “People on the Right and Left respect people with ideology and don’t trust people who run away from who they are. Nachman won’t get an additional vote from spitting at the left-wing people who supported him.”
Shai, who first entered the Knesset with the centrist Kadima Party, has clarified that he regretted saying that being left-wing was a stain, but reiterated that he does not see himself as left-wing.
Labor remains committed to the two-state solution and endorsed that stance at a recent party convention under Gabbay’s leadership. But an ideological forum in the party led by former MK Michael Bar-Zohar officially renounced support for a Palestinian state over the weekend.
The forum called for Israel to annex large settlement blocs and the Jordan Valley, set a border, and give the rest of the West Bank to the Palestinians to either declare a state or be annexed into Jordan.
“The gap between the stances of the Israelis and Palestinians is wide, so it does not appear that any possible Israeli government, even a center-left government, can bridge the gaps,” the forum said in its decision. “We need a solution that does not depend on the Palestinians. If an agreed solution is not reached soon, Israel must act independently.”