Opposition leader Isaac Herzog condemned Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech to Congress on Tuesday in an address he chose to deliver in Nir Moshe, a community near the Gaza Strip.Herzog said he could have gone to Washington but decided to remain in Israel to deal with the problems inside the country.“There is no doubt the prime minister knows how to speak well, but the truth is that the speech, as impressive as it was, did not prevent a nuclear Iran and won’t impact a deal that is being drafted – not on its content, nor on its timetable,” Herzog said. “The painful truth is that after all the applause, Netanyahu is alone and Israel is isolated, and the negotiations will continue without Israel’s input. The speech sabotaged Israel’s relations with the US. It will not change the view of the administration, only deepen the rift with our strategic ally.”
Politicians on the Right said Herzog’s attack on Netanyahu after the prime minister’s speech in Washington was inappropriate and would not serve him politically.“The people of Israel stand behind Netanyahu, especially after such a moving speech,” Bayit Yehudi leader Naftali Bennett said from Washington. “I was disappointed by the behavior of opposition leaders like Buji [Herzog], Tzipi [Livni], and Yair [Lapid], who should have been there by Netanyahu’s side, and if not, should get out of the way and stop bothering.”Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense committee chairman Yariv Levin (Likud) said that by repeatedly applauding the prime minister, “the congressmen taught Livni and Herzog a lesson in how to display responsibility and show respect for a leader fighting for his country’s future.”Retiring Culture and Sport Minister Limor Livnat (Likud) mocked Herzog by asking “Can anyone imagine Buji sweeping Congress away like that?” But former president Shimon Peres told Channel 2 that unlike past disputes with the US when American officials interfered with Israeli policies, for the first time, there is a spat with a US administration because Israel is interfering with American policies. Former ambassador to the US Michael Oren (Kulanu) lauded the speech, but told Channel 2 that the question was never whether Netanyahu should speak, “but how and where.”He could have avoided a crisis with the US by simply speaking against the Iranian deal at AIPAC or by simply moving the date of the Congressional address by two weeks, so that it occurred after the March 17 election.Oren made similar comments earlier in the day in Jerusalem at a Hebrew University debate sponsored by The Israel Project.“The issue is no longer about the speech, the issue is the day after the speech.How do we begin tomorrow repair the damage [with the US] that has been done,” he said.Oren added that Netanyahu returns home to an acute housing shortage, thousands of people without jobs in the South and a medical system that is collapsing.“He is going to face the other existential threats that Israelis [believe] most endanger their future,” Oren said.Meretz leader Zehava Gal- On accused Netanyahu of lying to Congress and trying to scare Israelis. “He didn’t present anything positive, nor can he,” she said. “It’s chutzpah to stand in Congress and tell Americans their president is making a bad deal.”Tovah Lazaroff contributed to this report.
Benjamin Netanyahu speaks to Congress