Israel has a partner for peace in Palestinian Authority (PA) Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, opposition leader MK Yitzchak Herzog claimed Sunday after meeting the PA chief in Ramallah.
According to AFP, Herzog said he would push the Israeli government to take "brave" steps in U.S.-brokered peace negotiations.
The meeting with Abbas was the first of its kind since Herzog was elected head of the Labor party at the end of November.
Herzog said his party, which was in power when Israel signed the Oslo Accords with the PA in 1993, is willing to help push the process forward and would urge Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's government to take bold steps to reach a deal.
"The current negotiations brokered by the United States provide a historic opportunity for peace between Israel and the Palestinians, particularly because president Abbas has a real desire to achieve peace," Herzog told a news conference after the meeting, according to AFP.
"I will carry that message to the prime minister... (and) we will try to put pressure on the Israeli government to take brave positions to achieve peace and security for our children," he added.
Herzog was quoted as having said that his party rejects “the construction of Jewish settlements on Palestinian land" and has voiced opposition to recent plans for the construction of 20,000 new homes in Judea, Samaria and eastern Jerusalem.
Herzog also said he discussed with Abbas the possibility of holding a meeting between Abbas and Netanyahu, saying face-to-face talks can help bolster the peace process.
Abbas reportedly reiterated his commitment to the full period of talks agreed upon with Washington, with the negotiations extending to April, said his spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeina.
Shortly after he was elected as Labor head, Herzog said he was “in no rush” to join Netanyahu’s coalition and added that if Netanyahu made “a bold diplomatic move”, the Labor party would assist him in passing it.
Justice Minister Tzipi Livni (Hatnua), eager to see a coalition that would it make it easier for her to pass an agreement with the PA which includes concessions to the PA, has been calling Labor to join the coalition in order to weaken the Jewish Home.
Analysts have predicted that unlike Herzog’s predecessor Shelly Yechimovich, who was always vocal about the fact that she would not join Netanyahu’s coalition at any cost, Herzog may be easier to convince to join the coalition should the Jewish Home leave it over an agreement with the PA.
PA negotiators resigned last month in protest at Israeli construction in what they claim is “occupied territory”, but Abbas has so far refused to accept their resignations.
The PA has repeatedly slammed Israel’s planned construction in Judea, Samaria and Jerusalem, despite the fact that it was informed in advance that Israel will continue to build as talks continue. The areas in which Israel plans to build are areas that even the PA has previously accepted will be part of Israel in a future deal.
The peace talks restarted in July, but so far little progress has been made in talks and there is a wide rift between the positions of the two sides.