Gabbay: Annexation is not our way

Zionist Union chairman speaks out against initiative published by MK Eitan Cabel which calls for annexation of "settlement blocs".

Refael Levy ,

Avi Gabbay
Avi Gabbay
Hillel Maeir/TPS

Zionist Union chairman Avi Gabbay on Monday spoke out against a diplomatic initiative published by Zionist Union MK Eitan Cabel.

The initiative, which Cabel detailed in an article published by Haaretz, includes the annexation of the so-called “settlement blocs” in Judea and Samaria, the heavily populated Jewish areas in Judea and Samaria that most Israeli leaders believe will remain part of the Jewish state in any future peace deal.

Cabel’s initiative suggests that the blocs must include Gush Etzion and the Jordan Valley, Ma’aleh Adumim and Ariel, and the community of Karnei Shomron where 7,500 Israelis currently reside. In the remaining areas of Judea and Samaria, the MK calls for a strict construction freeze.

In the article laying out his initiative, Cabel called on his fellow party members to "sober up" and abandon the dream of a peace accord signing on the White House lawn.

Gabbay, speaking Monday at a Zionist Union faction meeting, said, "In the wake of the discourse that has arisen in recent days, I would like to say a number of things: First of all, our party is democratic and as such tolerates ideas. For all those who wish to act against those who bring up ideas, I say - this is not the place for that."

“At the same time,” he continued, “one should not confuse individual ideas with those of the party and faction. Our position is clear: We are committed to separation [from Palestinian Arabs] and not annexation of territories and Palestinians. We are obliged to tell the public our positions and to fight for them. The ideas of annexation, which originated in the schools of [Naftali] Bennett and [Bezalel] Smotrich and also reached the Likud, are dangerous and irresponsible ideas that could destroy the Zionist vision of a Jewish and democratic state. This is not our way.”

The Zionist Union chairman then presented his alternative, saying, "In the face of these dangerous initiatives, we express what is most agreed upon in the Israeli public: We must separate from the Palestinians. We must keep Israel both Jewish and democratic. We must initiate actions that will strengthen our security and our future. The diplomatic alternatives are clear: On the one hand - Netanyahu and the right-wing government - with dangerous annexation dreams, with millions of Palestinians in the State of Israel."

"We, the Labor party and the Zionist Union faction, have a clear commitment to separation based on the principle of two states for two peoples: A strong, Jewish and democratic State of Israel, alongside a demilitarized Palestinian state, with us maintaining the security responsibility between the sea and the Jordan," concluded Gabbay.

Since being elected chairman of the Labor party, Gabbay has made a series of contradictory statements. Some of them have been criticized by members of his own party and have given the impression that he was leaning toward the right, while others appear to show that he is leaning toward the left.

Last November, he said that he was against evicting communities in Judea and Samaria because “you can't evacuate 100,000 people in any arrangement that may be, it's impractical and unrealistic and not sensible.”

At the same time, Gabbay has also made clear that “I believe in territorial concessions, and in negotiations with the Palestinians. I also believe in a solution based on two states for two peoples, and a united Jerusalem under Israeli sovereignty."

In February, he said that if negotiations with the Palestinian Authority fail, Israel should unilaterally withdraw from Judea and Samaria.

“If, after all our efforts, it seems the Palestinians don’t want an agreement, we’ll have to take unilateral measures to guarantee that Israel forever remains the homeland of the Jewish people. The liberty to make such a decision is ours, not theirs,” said Gabbay at the time.