Herzog’s Flawed Plan

by Mitchell Plitnick

Isaac Herzog, the Israeli opposition leader and head of the Zionist Union party, issued a “Ten-Point Plan” for a restarted peace process. His stated goals in doing so are to stave off the Israeli right’s drive toward annexation of the West Bank, to preserve the settlement blocs, to end Israel’s rule over another people, and to conclude a regional peace. Unfortunately, his plan would likely accomplish only one of those goals, the one already a fait accompli: maintaining the settlement blocs.

The cornerstone of Herzog’s idea is a ten-year freeze on settlement growth outside the blocs coupled with a vague promise of stimulating the Palestinian economy. At the end of ten years, final status negotiations would commence, but only on the condition that the preceding ten-year period had elapsed “without violence.”

These notions are completely unrealistic. Herzog would “guarantee” the ten years of quiet by setting up, through the UN Security Council, a mechanism to monitor and prevent “all terrorism and incitement.” By saying “all” rather than “Palestinian,” Herzog implies that the prohibition would be applied equally to Israelis and Palestinians.

That’s great in theory. In practice, it requires a lot more than Herzog seems willing to do. According to Herzog’s plan, the Israeli military would continue to operate throughout the West Bank and, in partnership with Palestinian security, act to prevent violence. But that is no different than the status quo. In practice, it has meant that Palestinian and Israeli security have worked together when necessary to combat Palestinian violence. But Israeli security is empowered to police the Palestinians, while the reverse is not true. Settlers have been able to commit daily acts of violence and harassment, usually, though not always, without fear of arrest, much less prosecution.

Meanwhile, Herzog’s plan calls for completing the security barrier and gradually handing more and more authority to the Palestinians to govern their own affairs. Ultimately, unless the Palestinians can unify their leadership, Israel will not permit them to declare a state, and, even if they do permit it, Herzog reserves judgment in his plan as to whether Israel will recognize that state.

This sort of thinking is the inevitable result of the unequal relationship between an occupying power that is a stable, economically healthy, regional superpower and a dispossessed and occupied people. The decision is entirely Israel’s, and it is based entirely on Israel’s concerns, not on any notion that Palestinians have inalienable rights and are entitled to the same freedoms as everyone else.

Moreover, Herzog repeats the old mistake of handing veto power to those who would employ violence. Anyone opposed to cooperation with Israel, including Hamas and groups much more radical, merely need to commit acts of violence to scupper the whole deal. Indeed, Herzog’s plan incentivizes such groups, as well as Israeli settlers and other extremists, to do just that.

Herzog pays scant attention to ensuring that Israel would police its settlers or begin to address the daily violence Palestinians face. That shortcoming also means that more Palestinians will be inclined toward violence, which, in turn, requires the Palestinian Authority (PA) to act more forcefully, making the legitimacy of Palestinian leadership more and more precarious and further entrenching the status quo. Moreover, a PA that agreed to this plan might have support among the Palestinian people, but it would also face an increasingly incensed opposition that already believes that the PA is nothing more than an agent of the Israeli occupation.

Ultimately, the foundation of Herzog’s plan is inherently and fatally flawed. It is based on the notion that the status quo can be frozen for ten years and that this will bring peace before there is any agreement between Israel and the Palestinians.

But you don’t get an agreement from peace, you get peace from an agreement. Palestinians already live in a reality where they know that they will face the response of a strong, unified state if they violently or even peacefully resist the occupation. Obviously, that threat has not led to peace, nor is there any reason to believe that it ever will.

Herzog developed this plan out of his criticism of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s refusal of an offer for a renewed peace process last year. The offer was developed in a summit attended by Netanyahu, Jordan’s King Abdullah II, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sissi, and US Secretary of State John Kerry. According to that offer, a regional peace initiative would accompany renewed talks with the Palestinians, all of which would be based on the same six points that Kerry presented publicly just a short time before he left his office:

  • Provide for secure and recognized international borders between Israel and a viable and contiguous Palestine, negotiated based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed equivalent swaps.
  • Fulfill the vision of the UN General Assembly Resolution 181 of two states for two peoples, one Jewish and one Arab, with mutual recognition and full equal rights for all their respective citizens.
  • Provide for a just, agreed, fair, and realistic solution to the Palestinian refugee issue, with international assistance, that includes compensation, options, and assistance in finding permanent homes, acknowledgment of suffering, and other measures necessary for a comprehensive resolution consistent with two states for two peoples.
  • Provide an agreed resolution for Jerusalem as the internationally recognized capital of the two states, and protect and assure freedom of access to the holy sites consistent with the established status quo.
  • Satisfy Israel’s security needs and bring a full end to the occupation, while ensuring that Israel can defend itself effectively and that Palestine can provide security for its people in a sovereign and non-militarized state.
  • End the conflict and all outstanding claims, enabling normalized relations and enhanced regional security for all as envisaged by the Arab Peace Initiative.

Netanyahu refused this framework, knowing how violently the Israeli right would react. Herzog, whatever his intentions, has presented a plan that is just another form of rejection. Kerry’s six points reflect a final status that, according to Herzog, would not even be discussed until ten years have passed without violence.

Does anyone really think that is going to happen?

Photo of Isaac Herzog courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Mitchell Plitnick

Mitchell Plitnick is a political analyst and writer. His previous positions include vice president at the Foundation for Middle East Peace, director of the US Office of B’Tselem: The Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories, and co-director of Jewish Voice for Peace. His writing has appeared in Ha’aretz, the New Republic, the Jordan Times, Middle East Report, the San Francisco Chronicle, +972 Magazine, Outlook, and other outlets. He was a columnist for Tikkun Magazine, Zeek Magazine and Souciant. He has spoken all over the country on Middle East politics, and has regularly offered commentary in a wide range of radio and television outlets including PBS News Hour, the O’Reilly Factor, i24 (Israel), Pacifica Radio, CNBC Asia and many other outlets, as well as at his own blog, Rethinking Foreign Policy, at www.mitchellplitnick.com. You can find him on Twitter @MJPlitnick.



  1. This sentence really does sum it up: “But you don’t get an agreement from peace, you get peace from an agreement.”

    As for Herzog’s plan, he knows it’s nothing more than “Look at me! Look at meeeeeeee!” grandstanding by an irrelevant nonentity. A pathetic plea for attention.

    As for Netanyahu’s rejection of Kerry’s proposal: am I the only one who notices that Kerry’s diplomacy was the very definition of an “outside in” strategy for negotiations?

    You know, the very strategy that Netanyahu is **now** urging Trump to adopt.

    As in: Bibi is urging Trump to follow a strategy that he unceremoniously trashed the last time someone tried it.

    Netanyahu is running a scam, and Trump is just the latest patsy.

  2. Even the left in Israel knows it is ludicrous to trust the corrupt and divided Palestinian leadership. Mr. Plitnick, another naive JVP member, does not offer realistic solutions, just criticism. For example, Israel should not let violent “extremists” among the Arabs have “veto power” over the peace plan. In other words, the Arabs can get all the benefits of a peace plan but none of the consequences from preventing its own people from violating it.

    However, one brilliant statement in this article makes the following observation: “This sort of thinking is the inevitable result of the unequal relationship between an occupying power that is a stable, economically healthy, regional superpower and a dispossessed and occupied people.”

    That’s right. There is an unequal relationship. The Israelis are stable, healthy, strong and can be trusted to abide by Western standards of morality. The Arabs calling themselves Palestinians are unstable, sick, weak and do not abide by Western standards of morality (even in how they treat each other much less in how they treat non-Arabs, or Jews and Christians).

    Only an imbecile would think two such diverse groups could coexist in peace with claims to the same land without the stronger imposing the peace on the weaker. When in history has that EVER worked out the way leftists contemplate?

    Someone please answer that question.

    Peace will come when the Palestinians leadership and mullahs acknowledge reality and starts educating their own people so they accept that reality. They blew it in 1948 and in 1967 and even in the 1990s. The opportunity has passed, there is too much water over the bridge and something less than what they have told their people can be accomplished will have to be accepted.

    The World came to accept North Vietnam rule over South Vietnam. The World will accept Jewish state of Israel including in the West Bank and an Arab state of Palestine in Jordan.

  3. Israel is a ethnocentric and supremacist society. Israel does not believe in equality of human beings and equality before law regardless of religion. Look how they treat not only Arabs, but refugees from African countries. We have nothing in common with an ethnocentric and discriminatory society like Israel. If Kerry, or other American politicians had the courage and conviction, they would have disavowed it. In fact, since they haven’t done it, I wonder how much sincere is our belief in human rights and equality of mankind.
    And Israel’s economic strength is the result of blackmail. For decades, the only industry it had was defense. It has diversified since then but that is thanks to billions of dollars of help from USA and preferential treatment from EU. Over 3 billion dollars per year are poured into Israel by private American citizens according to a study by Brandeis University. They have access to the best technology and education in top American universities. And all of this assistance have been obtained under the threat of blackmail of anti-Semitism and threat of retribution against our elected officials by AIPAC and ZOA and the like.
    The first step to solve the IP conflict is to end the occupation and allow the descendants of those who were ethnically cleansed in 1948 to return. Article II of Universal Declaration of Human rights states that everyone has the right to leave one’s home country and to return to it. This applies clearly to the Palestinian refugees. Every year UN asks Israel to take back the refugees, so it is not that Israel doesn’t know that it should do. Anything else such as Kerry’s compensation scheme is shameful and rewards human rights abuse and sets bad precedence. The right of return is irrevocable.
    Let me make a prediction. Palestinians have made some extraordinary lie recognizing Israel in 1967borders and Israel have rebuffed them. But we live in a fluid world. It may me that some day Israel will plead Palestinians to join them in a democratic one state for all its citizens. We Americans will be ashamed of causing all this suffering to the Pals because of our spinelessness to stand up for truth and justice.

  4. Return Boy, you are truly a piece of work. What makes you self-righteous?

    I live in the United States and we have much in common with Israel. We respect their Judeo culture which is part of our Judeo-Christian one. We respect what they have accomplished while your beloved Arabs have little show for the last 500 years. We don’t care much for the Islamic empire that fought Western Civilization for centuries. One of the first wars fought by the USA was against Muslim pirates and white slavers.

    America in fact was founded as an ethnocentric society and we do believe our culture is superior to that of many around the world. We have had much more discrimination in our country than is present in Israel.

    It is insane to suggest we should disavow Israel in favor of the Arabs who would like to rule over Palestine. What exactly do they offer that is positive or good for the world? Why does the world need another dysfunctional Muslim Arab state. Aren’t there enough Muslim Arab states (which are Jew-free by the way)? We recognize Israel’s flaws but to prefer the country be ruled by Muslim Arabs (like the ones in Gaza) is like preferring deadly poison to something gives you a little heartburn every once in a while.

    The Arabs who left Israel, in part voluntarily to make way for the Arab forces that were supposed to exterminate the Jews and in part to flee advanced Israeli forces, have only themselves to blame. There is no “right of return” and even if there were, it would apply to the Jew’s right to return to Israel. The Arabs can become citizens of their fellow Arab states or move to the Palestine territory used to create the State of Jordan.

    Plenty of people in the 20th century have had to move to another country as part of territorial adjustments and conflict. That’s the way it is. Deal with it.

  5. Jeffrey Willens, your comments are classic examples of racism. I guess the hasbara propagandists like you, have found their way to this site too. It is true that we in United States committed genocide against native Americans and oppressed African Americans, but as a nation we are sorry for it, have atoned for it and have tried to make amends. Zionists propagandists are reincarnation of the racists in America’s stained past. Congratulations!!
    I like the following factual story a lot. A white supremacist in Texas was talking to a rabbi and saying how good Israel is in terms of being ethnocentric and Jewish supremacist and therefore being a model for the white supremacism, The reform rabbi had nothing to say in response.
    Sir, you have nothing in common with the mainstream America I know. You are a fringe element. Case closed.

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