Opposition leader Isaac Herzog will make a decision soon about whether to accept an invitation to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee Policy Conference in Washington, sources close to him said Sunday.
AIPAC invited both Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Herzog to speak at the conference, which is to take place two weeks before the March 17 election. An address by Herzog to a massive audience of senators, congressmen and pro-Israel advocates from across America could help him build his diplomatic credentials as an alternative to the prime minister.
But Herzog’s criticism of Netanyahu’s trip and the way he obtained an invitation to address both Houses of Congress could rule out a visit at the same time by the Labor Party leader. US President Barack Obama does not plan to meet with Netanyahu when he comes, and even if he would have met with Herzog had the controversy not erupted, now such a meeting is out of the question.
Herzog called Netanyahu “the prime minister of isolation and a diplomatic stalemate” in a speech at Labor’s convention at the Tel Aviv Fairgrounds Sunday night.
He accused him of “fighting Israel’s top ally just in order to keep his job,” and warned that Netanyahu’s policies would force Israel to become a binational state with three million Palestinians.
But Herzog’s speech at the event was overshadowed by another he delivered last week at the Max Stern Academic College of the Jezreel Valley in which he said he was briefed about an alleged Israeli strike the week before in Syria that killed Hezbollah leaders and an Iranian general.
Israel has not accepted responsibility for the strike.
But Herzog’s statement that he “received a full briefing about the attack,” which was revealed by Channel 10, appeared to confirm the Israel Air Force’s involvement.
Herzog’s office responded that he was briefed about the security situation caused by the attack and that he did not confirm who was behind it. Netanyahu got into similar trouble when he revealed on Channel 1 in 2007 that then-prime minister Ehud Olmert had briefed him about a strike on a nuclear facility in Syria, for which Israel has never taken responsibility.
The report about Herzog’s speech was not the only apparent gaffe by the Labor leader Sunday. Party activists at the convention complained that pictures of former Labor leaders and prime ministers David Ben-Gurion and Yitzhak Rabin were removed from a massive screen on stage when Hatnua head Tzipi Livni addressed the audience.
Former Labor leader Amir Peretz, who returned to Labor for the first time since he left for Hatnua more than two years ago, received more applause than Herzog.
His entrance into the hall was greeted by chants of “Hoo-ha, who is coming? The next party chairman,” which rhymes in Hebrew.
Channel 2 revealed sharp criticism of Livni by Yossi Yonah, who is 23rd on the Labor list.
When he was one of the leaders of the 2011 summer socioeconomic protests, he said that Livni was “no better than Netanyahu” and said she was infected by a “neoliberal virus.”
Yonah did not attend the event, because he was abroad.
Labor MK Ghaleb Majadle, who heads the party’s Arab sector, boycotted the event to protest Labor and Hatnua calling their joint list Hamahane Hatzioni, which means “the Zionist Camp.”
“I don’t intend to become a Zionist,” Majadle said. “If they don’t change the name, we won’t take part in the party’s activities.”
Majadle, who lost a slot on the Labor list to broadcaster Zoheir Bahloul, said he was not seeking to be put on the list. But he warned that Labor could lose the support of 17,642 Arabs who voted for the party in the last election, a number that includes exclusively Arab municipalities but not mixed cities.
Herzog decided not to include a security figure on the Labor list other than MK Omer Bar-Lev, a reserve colonel who won the sixth slot in the party primary.
But he gave the 11th slot, which had been reserved for a security figure, to economist Manuel Trajtenberg.
Trajtenberg was greeted by booing at the event. Labor activists protested him being handed the slot without running.
“It’s not democratic,” said Gal Abitbul, the head of Labor’s Young Guard in Holon, who was one of the booers. “All the other candidates should have been moved up on the list.”
Had other candidates been moved up on the list, MK Nachman Shai would have advanced from the 20th slot to the 13th, ahead of candidates who won slots reserved for sectors. But Shai said he would not protest the decision, which he called “spilled milk.”
Trajtenberg told The Jerusalem Post he wasn’t bothered by the booing.
“This is a real party with real democracy,” he said. “I’m happy to be here.”
Livni denied charges that she prevented her former Kadima rival Shaul Mofaz from receiving the security slot. But in an interview with Army Radio she said Labor “did not miss anything” by not having Mofaz on the list.
She unveiled Hatnua’s candidates on the joint list at the event: MK Amir Peretz, former MK Yoel Hasson, journalist Ksenia Svetlova and Green Movement head Yael Cohen Paran.
Hatnua still has one more slot to give out. A source close to Livni said she was considering former Kadima MK Shlomo Molla as well as two other candidates for what will be the 25th slot on the joint list.