(photo credit: REUTERS)
If there were talks on forming a national unity government between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Zionist Union leader Isaac Herzog last week despite the denials of both men, Herzog will suffer severe consequences, Zionist Union MK Amir Peretz vowed Tuesday.
Channel 2 reported last week that Netanyahu and Herzog met twice, on Monday and Thursday at the Herzliya home of Leon Edri, a neighbor and confidant of the prime minister.
There have been reports that each meeting lasted two hours and that Netanyahu raised the possibility that Herzog would split the Zionist Union and come along with the seven additional MKs legally required to break off and join the coalition.
The precedent for such a step came in January 2011 when former Labor leader Ehud Barak split the party he headed and formed a new faction called Independence in order to preempt Labor’s institutions from deciding to leave Netanyahu’s government.
Following last week’s reports, Peretz defended Herzog in the media, and said he believed his denials that the meetings with Netanyahu took place. He said he trusted Herzog because rather than avoid the question, he gave him a direct, firm denial.
Asked if he still believed Herzog now that more details of the meetings have come out, Peretz told Israel Radio Tuesday that he better have told him the truth.
“When a man tells me it didn’t happen, I am obligated to given him the benefit of the doubt that he told me the truth,” Peretz said. “I want to believe him. But if it turns out that he lied to me with such blatant chutzpah, there will be very serious consequences, starting with me not being able to believe him anymore. I hope Buji [Herzog] told me the truth. If it turns out that he didn’t, the ramifications will not be simple at all.”
Herzog’s spokesman responded that Peretz can still trust Herzog because there were no meetings between Netanyahu and Herzog last week.
Minister without Portfolio Tzachi Hanegbi, who is close to Netanyahu, called again for the formation of a unity government at a legal conference Tuesday in Tel Aviv.
“There is no significant difference between the government and the opposition on key issues, even on the Palestinian conflict,” Hanegbi said. “That is why dialogue on forming a unity government should continue.”
Hanegbi downplayed Herzog’s criticism of the government at the conference. He said he was sure that if Herzog did not join Netanyahu’s fourth government, he would join his fifth or sixth.