Zionist Union head Isaac Herzog speaks to the press.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
The world powers’ deal with Iran is dangerous, but Israel cannot intervene in Israeli politics to fight it, opposition leader Isaac Herzog (Zionist Union) said in a meeting with 24 Democratic members of the US Congress Sunday.
“I read in recent days that [Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu said there’s no daylight between me and him, despite the fact that I challenged him in a recent election and that I work daily to topple his government. That’s exactly what we do in the opposition,” Herzog said, to laughs from the audience.
The Zionist Union chairman pointed out that he and Netanyahu disagree on many issues, and while they agree that the Iran deal is a bad one, they disagree on the approach Israel should take.
“Every Israeli patriot would be worried about this agreement and I have major criticism of aspects of it,” he said.
“First of all, unleashing the hungry Iranian tiger into the region…is a risk, which may destabilize the region and change its balance of power between moderate nations and extreme nations. In addition, the agreement gives legitimization for Iran to become a nuclear threshold state in 10-15 years…It’s enough to see the positive reactions of President [Bashar] Assad of Syria and [Hassan] Nasrallah, leader of Hezbollah, to understand what I’m talking about.”
However, Herzog said he has no intention of intervening in American politics or telling the members of Congress how to vote, or openly challenging the US president.
“The relationship between our nations is key to Israel’s national security and I think arguments between us and the US are arguments within the family,” he stated. “We should set rules on how to manage and control this argument and not to cross lines.”
Israel and the US’s enemies are enjoying their public arguments, he added.
“I would respect the outstretched hand of the president when he talks about Israel’s security,” Herzog stated.
Herzog called for containment by Iran via deterrents spearheaded by the US and its allies in the Middle East, meaning Israel and moderate Sunni states that see Iran as a danger.
“We should upgrade the relationship diplomatically, politically, militarily and intelligence-wise between Israel and the US, and I think this is an opportunity for the US to lead this new configuration. I call upon the administration to build up this coalition and make it a deterrent for future generations in light of the Iranian threat. We should enhance the alliance between the US and Israel in a way that is clear that whoever hurts Israeli interests, hurts American interests,” he stated.
Referring to statements by members of the Obama administration that the Iran Deal’s opponents want war, Herzog said he does not want war, he wants peace and Israel’s continued well-being as a democracy.
“It must be made clear to the Iranian leadership that Israel is here to exist forever. There is nothing more annoying than to hear the Iranian president Rouhani…call us the ‘Zionist entity.’ Well, the Zionist entity is Israel. It’s about time that in Tehran and anywhere else, including terrorist leaders in the region…know that Israel will be here forever, and there is no power that can change that,” he declared.
Following Herzog’s statements, MK Bennie Begin (Likud), a close ally of the prime minister, said that “to claim Netanyahu is intervening in internal US affairs, in light of the disagreement about the [Iran deal], is a naïve and partial presentation of the facts.”