MK Michael Oren has been frustrated with the government's lack of initiative in reviving the peace process, so he put forth his own proposal. He's the first coalition MK to present any type of diplomatic proposal to the current Knesset
Every MK who spoke at the Yedioth Ahronoth conference claimed that there's no connection between the diplomatic stagnation and Israeli policy, and the boycott against Israel. Finance Minister and Kulanu Chairman Moshe Kahlon even stated that a diplomatic process can't progress because "there is no partner on the other side."
Oren, formerly Israel's ambassador to the US, heard this statement from his own party's chief and protested. He claimed that it is the Israeli government that is sticking its head in the sand and failing to come up with any diplomatic initiative or plan to fight against the boycott movement.
"I'm a centrist, pragmatic person, and I see the reality," he said. "I believe that Israel can't explain itself to the world diplomatically without an active policy on the Palestinian issue."
Presenting his diplomatic plan under the title "Two-State Situation," Oren argues the need to have a settlement construction freeze outside of the major blocs, to strengthen the Palestinian economy (for instance, by supporting the new Palestinian city, Rawabi), to give more freedom of movement to thr Palestinians, and to give more permits for Palestinians to work in Israel.
"This plan, alongside concrete steps on the ground, will take some of the air out of BDS," Oren claims. "It's very important that we continue to support the idea of two states, even if it's not feasible or practical right now. We can lay down the groundwork, which, in the end, will turn into a permanent agreement. That way, we can prove to the world that we're serious, and that we are turning towards peace."
The chairman of your party, Kahlon, claims that there's no diplomatic process because there's no partner.
"I think that, with all due respect to the issue of whether there's a partner or not, it doesn't excuse us of the need to announce our willingness to sit, talk and have diplomatic negotiations. We are still beholden to the idea of two states, and we need to return to the negotiating table, even if we're sitting across from an empty chair. That’s the one thing that can take the motivation out of the BDS movement."
Oren also sharply criticizes the government's current policy and claims that the decision not to freeze construction outside of the main settlement blocs in the West Bank isolates Israel from its friends in the world, especially when remote, isolated settlements like Itamar receive the same treatment as Jewish neighborhoods in Jerusalem.
"It's because of this current Israeli policy," Oren claims, "that Israel lost the legitimacy to build near the Hebrew University or in Gilo. If there were some sort of a distinction, the world would have accepted construction in areas that will stay under Israeli sovereignty in a future agreement. Had we implemented this type of a partial freeze, the Europeans would have welcomed it and supported us. They don't want to impose sanctions against Israel."
Is it even possible to go forward with this type of a plan in a right-wing coalition?
"It's difficult in the current coalition. Our right-wing partners don't want to limit settlement construction; they want annexation. Every time that the possibility to freeze construction comes up, Bayit Yehudi threatens to leave the coalition. However, I believe that my plan is the most Israel can do, and the least that Europe is willing to accept."