Opposition leader Isaac Herzog of Labor said Monday that while Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas may not be the ideal partner for negotiations, he was all that Israel had, and hoping for a different negotiating partner was a waste of time.
"Abu Mazen is a tough and infuriating partner and sometimes very exasperating, and can even be depressing, (but) he is our partner and there is no point at all in wishing otherwise," Herzog said, referring to Abbas during a fierce debate on the future of the talks, and the failure to win the release of convicted Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard.
Herzog congratulated Justice Minister Tzipi Livni for her peace-making efforts as chief Israeli negotiator, but claimed that the upper echelons of the ruling Likud party were not really interested in reaching a deal.
The session was held following a request by 25 MKs last week, 10 of whom were absent as the debates got underway. The Knesset is currently on spring recess.
Herzog urged Finance Minister Yair Lapid (Yesh Atid) and Livni (Hatnua) to pull their respective parties out of the coalition, calling the government's participation in the peace talks a sham.
The opposition leader's call to break up the government came in the wake of senior coalition partner Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman's warning that he would rather hold early elections than see more Palestinian terrorists go free as part of negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.
"Lieberman told the truth," Herzog said in the poorly attended special Knesset session on the looming collapse of negotiations. "There's no way out, only elections. (So) let's go to elections and ask the nation."
- No progress made in meeting to solve talks crisis, Palestinians say
Meretz leader MK Zahava Gal-On opened the debate with an aggressive attack on the will of the government to strike a deal with the Palestinians.
"The negotiations led by the Netanyahu government lacked purpose since they were designed to serve the political survival of the coalition partners – and not to actually reach an agreement," she said.
According to Gal-On, "Livni and Lapid are prime collaborators with Netanyahu and joined the Danny Danons and Ofir Akunises who aren't partners to Abu Mazen. All of their promises to resign if the negotiations do not proceed have been revealed to be a sham."
MK Ahmad Tibi also confronted the Likud's Deputy Minister Ofir Akunis. "I'm proud that that was a counselor to (late Palestinian leader Yasser) Arafat," said Tibi. "He was a leader of the Palestinian nation, a great leader. At least I'm not a lackey of Netanyahu."
Akunis replied, "You should be ashamed to be a supporter of terrorism."
Tibi also lashed out at the US for failing to stand up to Israeli intransigence. "The weakness and subservience of the American government was revealed at its worst in the face of demands from the Israeli government," he said.
According to Tibi, there will not be any progress in talks that occurred overnight between the negotiating teams and mediated by a special American delegation led by Martin Indyk.
Tibi also had sharp criticism for the proposal to revoke the citizenship of Israeli Arab prisoners who would be released in the deal.
"The suggestion to revoke their citizenship is brazen and insolent, racist and discriminatory," said Tibi. "Can you imagine revoking the citizenship of a Jew? Did you revoke the citizenship of Yitzhak Rabin's murderer? No one ever suggested such a thing."