Yacimovich and Herzog.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Zionist Union leader Isaac Herzog went down fighting on Wednesday, following the news that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu chose to bring Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman into his government instead of him.
At a hastily called Tel Aviv press conference, Herzog claimed that he put a stop to talks with Netanyahu late Tuesday night because the prime minister refused to put down on paper far-reaching commitments on diplomatic issues.
Talks between Netanyahu and Herzog ended at 1 a.m. when Herzog’s associates told the press that there was no deal yet, due to disputes on diplomatic issues, but they did not say the talks were over.
Earlier on Wednesday, Herzog said at a speech in Jerusalem that he was halting the negotiations because Netanyahu was set to meet with Liberman, not because of a crisis in the talks the night before.
At the press conference, Herzog revealed that he had agreed with Netanyahu that the Zionist Union would be given nine portfolios, four deputy ministers, five committee chairmanships, and that in addition the defense portfolio would be given in a year. Likud officials denied that the offer was that extensive and said the Defense Ministry’s fate had not been finalized.
Herzog used the platform of the highly rated nightly news shows that broadcast the press conference live in order to bash his Labor Party rival, MK Shelly Yacimovich. He said she went from begging to join a Netanyahu- led government to attacking him in a vile manner.
“She is responsible for Liberman becoming defense minister,” Herzog said. “She made Labor into a left-wing extremist party. Israeli citizens will now have to deal with a government whose policies are borderline crazy.”
Yacimovich said in response that Herzog had lied about her wanting to enter Netanyahu’s cabinet and about his achievements in the negotiations, and that had she agreed to accept a senior portfolio, Labor would have already been in the coalition by now. She celebrated on Facebook that she had succeeded in “preventing the shameful crawling into the government” and had “saved the party from suicide.”
“As I expected, Herzog ate Netanyahu’s rotten fish and got kicked out town, causing the Labor Party a harsh blow,” Yacimovich wrote.
Herzog critic Erel Margalit added that “every time we thought Herzog hit a new low, he screams at us from even lower.”
MKs Stav Shaffir and Miki Rosenthal called upon Herzog to quit. Shaffir said Herzog had lost his credibility in his failed attempt to persuade his faction that Netanyahu was ready to make peace with the Palestinians.
“A leader who does not succeed in telling the difference between Bibi of a peace deal and Bibi who gives the defense portfolio to Liberman is not fit to head the Labor Party,” Shaffir said.