Jerusalem: Israel's opposition leader today warned that a new Palestinian uprising could be looming after a recent spate of violence and called on both sides to reduce tensions and restart peace talks.
The appeal came during a meeting in the West Bank with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, a rare face-to-face encounter after a more than yearlong diplomatic standstill.
Officials on both sides said that Abbas initiated the meeting with Isaac Herzog, leader of the opposition Zionist Union, in response to the violence of recent weeks.
Addressing reporters at Abbas' West Bank headquarters in Ramallah, Herzog said the two men held an "in-depth" discussion that lasted more than an hour.
He said they agreed "first and foremost" that a new "intifada," or uprising, must be prevented.
"We have agreed that in order to prevent a third intifada we must combat terror on the one hand aggressively, and on the other hand move toward a diplomatic process," he said. "We must ignite the process yet again and give it another effort."
After the meeting, Herzog wrote on his Facebook page that he believed a deal could be reached within two years if there was sufficient political will.
For now, the odds of bringing Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu together for a meeting much less restarting peace talks appear virtually nonexistent.
Israel and the Palestinians have held on-again, off-again peace talks over the past two decades, and the latest round of U.S.-brokered negotiations broke down more than a year ago with little progress.
The U.S. Is not expected to resume peace efforts until after a congressional vote on the international community's Iranian nuclear deal. Netanyahu bitterly opposes the deal, and with U.S.-Israel ties suffering, the prospects for any new U.S. Diplomatic initiative seem poor.
Even if the U.S. Manages to restart talks, the gaps between the Israeli and Palestinian leaders are so vast that a deal is unlikely. The Palestinians seek the West Bank, east Jerusalem and Gaza territories captured by Israel in 1967 for a future state. Netanyahu opposes a return to Israel's pre-1967 lines and rejects any withdrawal from east Jerusalem, the Palestinians' hoped-for capital. The area is home to key Jewish, Muslim and Christian holy sites.
Amid this diplomatic vacuum, violence has been rising since a firebombing attack by suspected Jewish extremists in the West Bank killed an 18-month-old toddler and his father last month. Since then, there have been several Palestinian stabbing attacks on Israelis and a firebombing of an Israeli car. Three suspected attackers have been killed, including a Palestinian man who stabbed an Israeli policeman in the West Bank on Monday. Hundreds of people attended the 25-year-old Palestinian man's funeral today.