Israeli Opposition Leader Isaac Herzog’s statement that the two-state solution isn’t a realistic option in the near future is not a “sharp turn to the right” as pundits are charging. Herzog, chairman of the center-left Zionist Union (a union of the Labor and HaTnua parties), made this statement as a part of calculated move to resuscitate the weak Labor Party.
The Israeli public’s stigma of Herzog is that he’s an uncharismatic leader with the lack of ability to lead the country. His recent statements on the two-state solution, however, prove that he is ready to take a major leap and change the future of the Labor Party. Herzog is laying the foundation of a new-centrist Labor Party by taking a rational national-security stance.
“I don’t see a possibility at the moment of implementing the two-state solution,” he told Army Radio. “I want to yearn for it, I want to move toward it, I want negotiations, I sign on to it and I am obligated to it, but I don’t see the possibility of doing it right now.”
According to the Israel Democracy Institute and Tel Aviv University’s Peace Index Poll released in the beginning of January, only eleven percent of Jewish Israelis see a chance for the two-state solution to be implemented in the next decade. Herzog’s admission that the two-state solution isn’t realistic at the moment, moves his party in-line with the overwhelming majority of the Israeli populace and into the center of the political spectrum.
Until Menachem Begin was elected Prime Minister, the Israeli Left dominated the Prime Minister’s Office from 1948 until 1977 using the same rational national-security foundation. Both Prime Ministers Ben Gurion and Rabin were feared by their enemies for their iron-fisted security policies. Since 1977, a bit under forty years ago, the Labor has held the Office for a little under eight years. The last Labor-led government was under the leadership of Prime Minister Ehud Barak, elected fifteen years ago.
It seems that the Israeli public still has a tainted view of the Labor Party that was elected fifteen years ago and failed miserably to bring peace after the Oslo Accords and Camp David in 2000. Instead of peace, under the leadership of the party came the Second Intifada, which resulted in the deaths of over one-thousand Israelis.
In the same fifteen years since the last election of a Labor-led government and beginning of the Second Intifada, the centrist party Kadima received more votes than both the historically dominant Likud and Labor parties in two elections. In the 2006 elections, Ehud Olmert ascended to the Prime Minister’s office with the party. The party won the most mandates again in the 2009 election but was unable to pull together a coalition.
It was clear that a major portion of the Israeli populace was in-line with centrist policies by electing a party founded by moderates and former Prime Ministers of the Likud and Labor, respectively, Ariel Sharon and Shimon Peres. Both leaders felt that their former parties were too polarized and held ideas that ran contrary to the rational national-security views of the Israeli majority.
And again, during the 2013 elections, centrist party Yesh Atid received the second greatest amount of votes—more than Labor. Regardless of the fact that Labor and Likud received more mandates than any single centrist party in 2015, Yesh Atid and Kulanu (centrist parties), received a combined sixteen percent of Knesset representation, just two percent below Zionist Union’s share.
Herzog realizes that there is a major flaw with the Labor Party’s platform and its drift from Israeli consensus. His party is losing seats to centrist parties.
Isaac Herzog’s statement isn’t a sharp turn to the right. He is creating a new definition for what it means to be center-left. He is shifting his Labor Party to the middle of the spectrum with a rational national-security policy to suffocate the centrist parties, which don’t have the lifespan longer than a couple of governments. Herzog’s move, if successful, will take mandates from the centrist parties in a future election and make Labor a true competitor for the Likud in the next elections.
The statement, while attacked by many, is what the Labor Party should have been saying to an Israeli public that has feared their national-security policies since their depart from government leadership. For the Israeli public, Herzog may not be charismatic, but he sure is courageous for going against the party establishment in order to pave the way for a new centrist-Labor Party.