By Jenni Frazer
The leader of Israel’s opposition, Isaac Herzog, warned on Friday that there was “a simmering from within” in Israeli society, “even among the settlers. I am sure that the same thing is happening on the Palestinian side, but we can’t hear them.”
The Labour politician was in London for Monday’s special Israel policy conference sponsored by the Jewish News and other partners.
On Friday afternoon Mr Herzog, fresh from having lost March’s election to Benjamin Netanyahu, spoke to an audience of academics and students at LSE and appeared to some observers to be setting out his stall as a credible leader to talk to the Palestinians in any future peace talks.
Over and over again Mr Herzog emphasised the importance of talking to the Palestinians and renewing negotiations. He was swift to announce the sort of confidence building measures he would put in place if he were able, linking such measures to a pledge by the Palestinians to renounce terror: “A lifting of road blocks, a freezing of settlement building outside the major settlement blocs, and an encouragement of economic growth in Palestinian areas.”
Mr Herzog completely rejected all talk of a one-state solution, tying his colours firmly to the mast of two states, and calling for moderate world states to help initiate two-state talks. And he was tough on boycotts, saying the campaign failed to help Palestinians who would lose out economically, and had the opposite effect on Israelis who merely dug their heels in when facing those who would delegitimise the Jewish state.
Questioning, for the most part, was tough but fair and several members of the Palestine Society made contributions. But immediately after the session a splinter group of those who had been unable to attend the talk staged a sit-in demonstration inside the building, blocking the stairwell and shouting slogans at the departing audience. A wry Mr Herzog, concluding his remarks, told the demonstrators: “Don’t stand outside and shout. Next time come in and talk.”