Labor Party chief Isaac Herzog at Jerusalem Post office in Jerusalem.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Zionist Union chairman Isaac Herzog resisted pressure from AIPAC, the Likud and his own advisers when he announced on Tuesday that he would not travel to Washington next week to address the AIPAC Policy Conference.
Responding to calls from Likud leaders to back up Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Iran speech to Congress by joining him in the US capital, Herzog said his commitment to prevent a nuclear Iran could not be questioned.
“Netanyahu’s spin about who is going to Washington must cease,” he wrote on his Facebook page. “My staunch position against a nuclear Iran is known by all in Israel and America, including the US president. I know how to make my opinion heard clearly and in a way that is influential from here or there.”
Elaborating at a press conference for the foreign media, Herzog said there was no difference between his position on Iran and that of the Likud and the rest of the parties in the governing coalition.
“No Israeli leader would ever accept a nuclear Iran,” he said. “The way to deal with it – that’s where I differ from Prime Minister Netanyahu.
I believe in open discussions with Washington and Europe. I believe [Netanyahu’s] speech to Congress is a mistake. I will voice my opinion all too well from here rather than from there.”
Herzog stressed that he had high regard for AIPAC and its annual conference, which he is considering addressing via satellite from Israel.
A source close to Herzog said he had seriously considered going to Washington but ultimately decided that “our goal is to win the election, and that happens here.”
Likud officials blasted Herzog’s decision not to go to Washington, accusing him of “siding with [US President Barack] Obama over Israel” and “preferring narrow political interests to the good of the country.”
Earlier on Tuesday, Transportation Minister Israel Katz (Likud) urged Herzog to “go to Washington but leave [his Zionist Union No. 2 MK Tzipi] Livni at home.”
At the press conference, Herzog avoided making any commitments about steps he would take to advance a diplomatic process with the Palestinians. It would depend on the “mood” of the Palestinian leadership, he repeatedly said.
“The Jordan River must be Israel’s security border,” he said, reiterating statements former prime minister Yitzhak Rabin made multiple times.
Herzog said any Palestinian state must be demilitarized. He suggested starting by demilitarizing the Gaza Strip as part of a “mini-Marshall Plan.”
Speaking days after student governments at Northwestern and Stanford universities in the US voted to divest from Israel, Herzog said he would battle against the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement.
“I intend to fight BDS,” he said. “I will fight the undermining of Israel.
Israel’s cause is just. We have to do whatever it takes to protect our nation around the world.”Daniel Clinton contributed to this report.