Herzog, Livni blame their loss on racism

Zionist Union leader Isaac Herzog also blames the loss on statements made against right-wing and Orthodox Israelis by artist Yair Gerbuz and playwright Joshua Sobol.

March 20, 2015 12:06
2 minute read.
Tzipi Livni Isaac Herzog

Tzipi Livni speaks with Labor head Isaac Herzog in the Knesset. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)

Zionist Union leaders Isaac Herzog and Tzipi Livni blamed their six-seat loss in Tuesday's election on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu making statements they considered racist.

Netanyahu warned on Facebook and in text messages to voters Tuesday afternoon that Joint (Arab) List supporters were being bussed en masse to polling stations. In a series of interviews Thursday, Herzog and Livni said the tide turned on Election Day thanks to those messages.

"The votes for Netanyahu rose late in the day in response to the warnings about Arab voters heading to the polls," Herzog told Army Radio.

Livni called Netanyahu's re-election "the victory of hatred and fear." She said Netanyahu got carried away with his pre-election mantras warning against "a government led by Tzipi and Buji [Herzog] backed by the Arab list."

"I disagree with Netanyahu but he is not an enemy," Livni said. "Netanyahu made us into enemies, and that is unforgivable."

Netanyahu responded that he warned not against Arabs voting but against the donations from foreigners to boost Arab turnout in an effort to unseat him.

Herzog also blamed the loss on statements made against right-wing and Orthodox Israelis by artist Yair Gerbuz and playwright Joshua Sobol.

At an anti-Netanyahu rally in Tel Aviv, Gerbuz described right-wing voters as “shouters of ‘Death to Arabs,’ thieves and bribe-takers, amulet-kissers, idol worshipers and bowers at the graves of saints” who took over the country. His comments sparked criticism that what he said was “racist” against Sephardim, but Gerbuz refused to apologize in several media interviews.

Sobol sought to defend Gerbuz from the nearly universal panning he received after his speech, saying that “whoever kisses mezuzas, that’s his problem... There are stupid people in all different population groups.”

Herzog reiterated that he had no intention of joining Netanyahu's next government, using stronger language than he did before.

"I don't want to clean up after him [Netanyahu]," Herzog said. "If the people want a far-right government for a limited time then we will challenge it. "

While refraining from expressing full conviction, Herzog told Army Radio that "he hoped" he would become prime minister one day with God's help.

Livni responded to criticism that she was a burden on Labor, claiming that she brought the Zionist Union 12 of its 24 seats. Out of the 24, six will be MKs selected by Livni.

Herzog said that on election night he went to bed around 2 a.m. when exit polls indicated a tie between Likud and Zionist Union. He only found out he lost the election at 6:45am when he was woken by a text message with condolences from Livni.

Julie Steigerwald and Lahav Harkov contributed to this report

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