Monday, March 27, 2017

Trump ‘heavily committed’ to Mideast peace, says Herzog

Trump ‘heavily committed’ to Mideast peace, says Herzog: Addressing AIPAC conference, opposition leader calls for response to Arab Peace Initiative, says ‘we need to be leaders’

WASHINGTON – Opposition leader Isaac Herzog told the AIPAC conference on Monday that regional conditions had ripened into a “golden moment” to work toward a peace agreement with the Palestinians and that US President Donald Trump is “heavily committed” to the process.

Herzog, speaking at the annual policy conference after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, acknowledged his fruitless efforts last year to form a coalition government to advance a regional peace deal, but said, “Now there is another opportunity with this administration for a great change in the region.”

Herzog was close to forming a unity government on the premise of a regional peace deal, but Netanyahu ultimately backed out.

“Tomorrow we will mark 15 years since the launching of the Arab Peace Initiative,” Herzog said. He was referring to an Arab-League-endorsed 2002 proposal to end the Arab-Israeli conflict by normalizing relations between Arab states and Israel, in return for a full Israeli withdrawal from Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem and a “just settlement” of the Palestinian refugee problem.

“I believe Israel should respond to that initiative and I believe we should identify the peace opportunity and make another effort.”

Herzog said that regional leaders “have to present a vision of hope to both peoples, to the young people, the next generation. We can do it — we need simply to take bold steps. We need to be leaders — that’s what we were elected for.”

While the Israeli left has traditionally found a common political language with US Democrats, Herzog expressed confidence in the Republican Trump administration.

“After meeting with Jason Greenblatt [Trump’s special representative for international negotiations], I’m impressed that President Trump is heavily committed toward reaching peace between Israel and the Arabs,” he said, to applause from the audience.

While Herzog warned that Israel has to be “cautious” and “responsible,” and that “Israel’s security is above all,” he also noted that there was “an opportunity, because there is a convergence of interests between moderate Arab states and Israel at this given moment.

“Because we can just knock at the door and enter into the region and be finally welcomed into the region, we have to talk to the nations nearby,” he said.

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