The leader of the Israeli Labor Party, Avi Gabbay, has rejected the need to evacuate West Bank settlements in the context of a peace deal with the Palestinians.
Gabbay made the remarks in an interview with Israel's Channel 2. Asked whether settlements like Eli and Ofra – colonies deep in the occupied West Bank – would have to be removed, Gabby replied:
If you make a peace deal, solutions can be found that do not necessitate evacuations.
"I think the dynamic or the terminology that we have become accustomed to, that if you make a peace deal you evacuate, is not actually true."
The comments by Gabbay, whose party is the largest opposition party in the Knesset as part of the Zionist Camp faction, came a day after the Labor leader had vowed disproportionate military action, stating that "the Arabs have to be afraid of us".
"You can't be a compromiser on security," Gabbay told a party gathering in Dimona. "You can't say, 'Fine, I understand, fine, they only fired one missile.' There is no such thing. They fire one missile – you fire 20. That's all they understand in the Middle East."
On Saturday, meanwhile, the Israeli Labor party leader said he would never enter into coalition with the Joint List, a Knesset faction dominated by parties representing Palestinian citizens of Israel.
"We will not share a government with the Joint List, period," Gabbay said. "Let that be clear." He continued: "You see their behaviour. I don't see any [connection] between us that would allow us to be part of a government with them."
On the other hand, Gabbay "didn't reject the possibility of being part of a governing coalition alongside Kulanu, Yisrael Beiteinu and the ultra-Orthodox parties", and specifically singled out Yair Lapid's Yesh Atid as a likely coalition partner.
Gabbay's remarks on settlements prompted criticism from some members of the Zionist Camp, including Tzipi Livni, but also some statements of support from within the Labor Party.
Gabbay subsequently sought to clarify his remarks, telling a private WhatsApp group: "I stand behind what I said, but not behind the headline and the framing of my words." He added that he remains committed to a "two-state solution" but believes "now is not the time to draw the borders of future negotiations and the recipe for the solution of the conflict."