(photo credit: Reuters)
Opposition leader Isaac Herzog announced a campaign for prime minister at Sunday night’s Labor convention in Tel Aviv, vowing that his party would replace the Likud in power sooner than people imagine.
In his first convention as party leader, Herzog promised to double Labor’s membership and present a formidable alternative to Likud. But knowing how quickly Labor has replaced its leaders, he stressed that the party was “beginning a long journey.”
Herzog praised US Secretary of State John Kerry’s efforts to reach an agreement between Israel and the Palestinians. He challenged Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to reach an agreement with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.
“I told the prime minister we will support him if he leads a diplomatic process and that he has a mandate to make a deal that will bring about agreed-upon borders,” Herzog said. “Bibi has no shortage of hands in the Knesset. The question is whether he has a spine.”
Herzog gave no hint of any intention of joining Netanyahu’s government any time soon. He upgraded his criticism of the prime minister along with the Palestinian leader.
“The moment of truth is coming,” Herzog said. “Netanyahu and Abbas will have to decide whether to chain millions of people and their descendants to a desperate future with no hope or give them life in two states side by side. Bibi, if you decide again not to do anything but run scare campaigns, the people of Israel will have us replace you sooner than you think.”
Herzog praised his predecessor, MK Shelly Yacimovich, for the “gentlewomanlike spirit in which she passed on the leadership of the party.”
He said she would be a partner in his battle for the leadership of the country.
Labor secretary-general Hilik Bar’s tenure was extended by six months at the convention.
A Channel 2 poll taken by pollster Mina Tzemach found that Herzog trails Netanyahu by a wide margin. Thirty percent of Israelis said that Netanyahu is most suited to be prime minister, 11% said Herzog, and Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman, Economy Minister Naftali Bennett and Finance Minister Yair Lapid all scored 8% or lower.
The poll found that if former communications minister Moshe Kahlon formed a party, it would win 10 seats.
Shas voters preferred former party chairman Eli Yishai to current leader Arye Deri by a two-to-one margin.