Former president Shimon Peres at the Peres Peace House, on the shores of Jaffa.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Former president Shimon Peres on Thursday announced his endorsement of Zionist Union leader Isaac Herzog to be the next prime minister of Israel.
"The Israeli democracy is approaching the day of choice. It is natural that people will have differing opinions and that they will vote according to their conscience. As for me, I support Isaac Herzog to be prime minister," Peres stated.
"I have known Isaac Herzog and his family for many years," Peres said. "I have seen him up close fill a number of senior positions excellently, as well as taking part in serious and impactful discussions on Israel's future."
Peres called Herzog "a cool-headed leader who has maintained his honesty and is full of responsibility and dedication to the Israeli public."
"I am convinced that Isaac Herzog is worthy to be prime minster and that he will be a leader who knows how to bridge the gaps and to unite the Israeli society with the glue of solidarity and hope."
The Likud said in response to the endorsement that "Shimon Peres is obviously a typical left-winger who supports Buji [Herzog] and [Zionist Union co-leader] Tzipi [Livni].
"Peres is the architect of the Oslo Accords, he was an ardent supporter of the disengagement [from Gaza], and he supports withdrawing from Judea and Samaria. This is exactly what Buji and Tzipi, as the leaders of a left-wing government supported by the Arab party, would do," the Likud statement read.
"Only a vote for a big Likud, and the closing of the gap between Likud and the Labor party, will prevent the formation of a government that will make concessions that will allow for the establishment of a second terror state in the heart of Israel," the party added.Herzog said earlier on Thursday
that in light of the latest polls that put his party several mandates ahead of the Likud, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has "displayed severe panic and returned to the rhetoric of fear and threats in recent days."
A series of internal polls taken this week by the Zionist Union by former prime minister Ariel Sharon’s pollster, Kalman Geyer, found the Zionist Union leading the Likud by five to seven Knesset seats – the Zionist Union with as many as 28 and as few as 24 seats, and the Likud with as many as 21 and as few as 18.
Speaking in an interview with Army Radio on Thursday, Herzog discussed the possibility that President Reuven Rivlin would select him to form the next coalition following the March 17 election. "I have spoken with many of the party leaders and understand well that things said before the election and are not necessarily honored after the election. I am sure of my ability to form a good government."
Gil Hoffman contributed to this report.