Avi Gabbay
Avi Gabbay Miri Tzahi/TPS

Zionist Union chairman Avi Gabbay said Saturday that if negotiations with the Palestinian Authority fail, Israel should unilaterally withdraw from Judea and Samaria.

Speaking in the city of Ness Ziona, south of Tel Aviv, and quoted by Haaretz, Gabbay said, “We must do all we can in order to hold genuine negotiations.”

“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,” he continued.

“If there aren’t two states for two peoples, there will be one state with an Arab majority, and we don’t want to reach that situation. We are the ones who have to make the decisions and the Palestinians have to reach a situation where it is worth their while to reach an agreement,” said the Zionist Union chairman.

"I believe we have to do everything possible to get to the negotiations stage and to build genuine mutual trust between the two sides so that we can make progress,” he opined.

Since being elected chairman of the Labor party, Gabbay has made a series of statements which have been criticized by members of his own party and have given the impression that he was leaning toward the right.

In 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."

Meanwhile, according to Haaretz, a Labor party team headed by MK Omer Bar-Lev is revising the party’s platform on the Israeli-Palestinian Arab conflict, based on a two-state solution.

Gabbay, according to the report, plans to submit a resolution at the next party convention calling for “separating from the Palestinians on the basis of the principle of two states for two peoples.”

The move is in part a response to the recent Likud resolution in favor of annexing Judea and Samaria, but is also a response to harsh criticism of Gabbay from the left, including members of his own party, over his “hard right turn” on various issues, including Israel and the Palestinians.

His statement on Saturday follows a poll published on Friday which showed the Zionist Union, a joint list made up of Labor and MK Tzipi Livni's Hatnua parties, is dropping in popularity.

The poll found that if elections were held today, Zionist Union would fall from 24 seats to just 13. That would result in the lowest number of Labor MKs ever elected to the Knesset, with a delegation of just 11 members. Two of the 13 Zionist Union MKs would come from Hatnua.

According to that poll, which was published in the Israel Hayom newspaper, Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid party would rise to a record high of 24 seats, compared to its present 11 seats, cementing Lapid's status as leader of the center-left instead of Labor.