His meeting with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Aug. 18 was an encounter Zionist Camp leader Isaac Herzog had requested some time ago — immediately after losing to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the March 17 elections. The only way the Zionist Camp party leader could differentiate himself from Netanyahu was to meet with Abbas and to demonstrate an affinity for and commitment to any kind of diplomatic process. The problem was that the Palestinian leader was not exactly enthusiastic about the idea. Spring went, summer arrived and suddenly, while Herzog was vacationing with his family in Cyprus, the telephone call came from presidential spokesman Nabil Abu Rodeina: The chairman would be happy to see you, Herzog was told.
They sat together in Ramallah for almost an hour and a half, just the two of them. As opposed to prior visits and meetings, this tête-à-tête was without fanfare: no media presence, no escorts nor other participants. Just Abbas and Herzog sat together, the two great losers of the previous year. Herzog had almost made it to the prime minister’s office when he lost to Netanyahu at the last minute and Abbas had remained the abandoned rear guard without an agenda, a diplomatic horizon, any kind of negotiations or international interest. Of the two of them, only Abbas is mulling possible retirement. Herzog, by contrast, is a relatively young politician who believes that his future is still before him.