Analysis: Herzog's missed opportunity

The only way for Israelis to really see Herzog as a potential prime minister is if he goes head to- head with Netanyahu.

February 25, 2015 06:23
2 minute read.
Netanyahu and Herzog

Netanyahu and Herzog. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST,REUTERS)

Imagine if two weeks before the election, Zionist Union leader Isaac Herzog went to the AIPAC Policy Conference and addressed a massive crowd of Israel-lovers.

No matter what he said, he would receive standing ovation after standing ovation.

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He would be greeted by dozens of congressmen.

He would look “prime-ministerial,” our equivalent of what Americans call presidential.

That term is exactly what Herzog lacks now, according to the polls.

Herzog’s Zionist Union currently leads the Likud by two Knesset seats. But when the question of who is fit to be prime minister arises, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu still beats Herzog by a landslide.

What does it take to persuade Israelis that one is fit to lead? Herzog answers that a leader knows how to get along with people and help them accomplish more together.

Nice response, but Israelis apparently don’t buy it, because Netanyahu clearly does not fit that definition and Israelis still see him as more of a leader than anyone else.

The correct answer is what former US Supreme Court justice Potter Stewart wrote about hard-core pornography: “Difficult to define, but I know it when I see it.”

Israelis need to see leadership in action. Israel Democracy Institute president Yohanan Plesner has pointed out that barely any Israelis saw Ehud Olmert as a potential prime minister before he became one, but once he shifted smoothly into the position following former prime minister Ariel Sharon’s stroke, polls found that Israelis saw him as a leader.

So how can Herzog act as prime minister now? What he has been doing is saying over and over that he will defeat Netanyahu. The Zionist Union is preparing ads boasting his military credentials. His supporters even adopted the Twitter handle @ HerzogPM.

Nice gestures. But the only way for Israelis to really see Herzog as a potential prime minister is if he goes headto- head with Netanyahu.

There are two ways to do that. One is a debate on a national stage, which will not happen, because Netanyahu has wisely refused.

A debate that Channel 2 is planning for Thursday will have eight party leaders and two empty seats for Netanyahu and Herzog, who refused to come if Netanyahu would not be there.

The other way is by facing off against the prime minister on an international stage, like the United Nations, Congress, or the AIPAC Policy Conference.

Herzog had that opportunity, and he turned it down. If he loses the election, he will regret that missed opportunity.

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