Labor members fighting the possibility that the party will join the coalition took an increasingly antagonistic tone against opposition leader Isaac Herzog (Zionist Union) on Saturday.
MK Shelly Yacimovich (Zionist Union), a former Labor chairwoman who is likely to challenge Herzog in the party’s next leadership primary, threatened to wield her considerable power in the party, on Channel 2’s Meet the Press.
“Herzog wants to enter the government, and my friends’ job is to say that he can’t,” she said on Saturday evening.
Yacimovich posited that if the coalition’s guidelines were to be rewritten, there would be something to consider, but that at the moment, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu refuses to change the guidelines, so that Bayit Yehudi can remain in the coalition.
“An offer that doesn’t annoy [Bayit Yehudi MKs Bezalel] Smotrich, [Naftali] Bennett and [Ayelet] Shaked is one that I cannot accept,” she said.
According to Yacimovich, the offer Netanyahu gave Herzog “was not even one given to a medium-sized partner.
It was throwing a rotten bone and telling us to run after it, wagging our tails... There wasn’t even an illusion that there would be something good.”
On Friday, Herzog posted on Facebook, listing his conditions for joining the coalition, sharpening the even vaguer litany from a Facebook post the previous night.
The conditions Herzog listed were “lowering the cost of living, involvement in decisions related to the government’s natural gas plan, receiving the authority to stop international boycotts, protecting the Supreme Court, canceling racist laws, opening negotiations with states in the region and implementing [Herzog’s] plan to separate from the Palestinians.”
Soon thereafter, the post was erased and Herzog’s spokesman said it was a mistake made by someone working in his office.
MK Miki Rosenthal (Zionist Union), a Yacimovich supporter, said Herzog is “desperate to crawl into the government,” and is abandoning his voters in order to do so and save his political career.
“The massive damage Buji [Herzog] is causing is irreparable as long as he remains in his position,” Rosenthal said.
Party activists held a protest outside Herzog’s house calling on him to say he will no longer negotiate with Netanyahu.
Naama Lazimi, a Labor activist who organized the protest, said “joining the cruel, extreme-right government would lose us the public’s trust and be a mortal blow to the party.
“Bibi should be replaced, not served,” Lazimi added, making a statement similar to one Labor leadership contender MK Erel Margalit made last week.
Zionist Union faction chairwoman Merav Michaeli said she opposes joining the coalition, but that protesting against Herzog is “helping Netanyahu reach his goal to divide us.”
Should Labor join the coalition, it is likely to part ways with Hatnua, the other party making up the Zionist Union.
“No matter how much we disagree with the chairman, the discussion must be within the party, and cannot give ammunition to those who want to weaken the Zionist Union,” Michaeli said. “A demonstration in front of Herzog’s home does not prevent damage to the party; it makes it worse.”
Herzog said of the protests that he’s glad there are so many young activists in the party.
“The Labor Young Guard has always opposed all unity governments, and I respect this,” he said. “We are a democratic party and all voices in it are appropriate. If there is an offer that will allow us to hold the country’s steering wheel, I will take it seriously and bring it to the party’s democratic institutions.”
MK Eitan Cabel (Zionist Union), a Herzog ally, said, similarly, that he will “agree to no less than a [coalition] agreement that will change the face of the country, and I believe Isaac Herzog won’t either.
“At the moment, there are no agreements on matters of principle,” Cabel added.
Meanwhile, in the Likud, party sources began saying that Yisrael Beytenu would be a more natural choice to join the right-wing coalition, not Labor.
Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely (Likud) pointed to the Likud’s election slogan, “It’s us or them,” saying “it reflects gaps in our worldviews. The public chose us, and we need to take that mandate and lead a government of the nationalist camp according to the agenda for which we were elected.
“The Zionist Union is a party that is falling apart. The government doesn’t need them and there’s no reason we should send Buji a lifeline,” she said.
Deputy Minister for Regional Cooperation Ayoub Kara (Likud) said “the nation chose a nationalist government...I don’t see a reason to break up our natural partnership with Bayit Yehudi, and we must pressure [Yisrael Beytenu chairman Avigdor] Liberman...to enter the government,” he said.
A source close to Liberman said the party leader is rebuffing the Likud’s overtures.
“There’s nothing new in what’s being said about us, which is a Likud spin,” the source said. “Our stance is known and remains the same, first of all in matters of security, and also in other matters, so there will be something to talk about.”