Zionist Union head Isaac Herzog speaks to the press.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
A day after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was quoted saying in closed conversations that he wants to restart the peace process, opposition leader Isaac Herzog expressed doubt on Tuesday that talks would begin while Netanyahu is in power.
In an interview running in The Jerusalem Post’s Shavuot supplement on the world’s 50 most powerful Jews this weekend, Herzog mocked the prime minister’s decision to distribute the former responsibilities of the Foreign Ministry among six different Likud politicians, including putting vice premier Silvan Shalom in charge of the currently nonexistent peace talks with the Palestinians.
“There may be a peace process between Netanyahu and Silvan Shalom,” Herzog said sarcastically. “Spreading out the Foreign Ministry’s functions shows they don’t take what government is about seriously. They degrade what leadership is all about. It’s just another example of Netanyahu’s circus, and it’s sad because the citizens will suffer.”
Herzog’s Zionist Union No. 2, MK Tzipi Livni, said Shalom has succeeded in building ties with the Arab world. But she said she doubted that the peace process she led until last year would restart in the new government.
Shalom continued to express optimism on Tuesday, telling Army Radio at the President’s Residence in Jerusalem that his attempt to restart talks with the Palestinians had the full blessing of the prime minister.
“They say in English that it takes two to tango,” Shalom said. “First we need to bring together those who want to dance, and then we’ll see how to move forward. I am sure the prime minister wants to dance.”
Shalom competed with MK Gilad Erdan and National Infrastructure, Energy and Water Minister Yuval Steinitz for the Foreign Affairs portfolio that Netanyahu decided to keep for himself.
Steinitz criticized that decision in a rare incident of him saying anything negative about his ally, the prime minister.
“[Foreign policy] is the responsibility of the prime minister, who is currently also the foreign minister, and even when there is a foreign minister it’s the responsibility of the prime minister,” Steinitz told Voice of Israel radio at the President’s Residence.
“It’s not a good situation that there is no foreign minister. It’s no secret that I wanted to be foreign minister. But I will continue to coordinate the government’s efforts against the Iranian nuclear program.”
Herzog said he had already decided to oppose Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon’s demand to shift the Interior Ministry’s planning directorate into Kahlon’s portfolio, saying that “when you study the issue in depth, you see the move can be very dangerous, especially to environmental protection.”
Shalom said he, too, would oppose the transfer, joining his predecessor as interior minister, Erdan. The transfer passed in the cabinet on Tuesday.
It is to go to the Knesset soon, where it will not pass if Shalom and Erdan do not vote for it.
It was unclear Tuesday which moves by Netanyahu as communications minister would have to come to the Knesset for a vote.
Zionist Union MK Erel Margalit wrote a letter Tuesday to Attorney- General Yehuda Weinstein asking him to disqualify Netanyahu from being communications minister.
He said Netanyahu admitted a conflict of interest in a letter to Central Elections Committee head Salim Joubran in which he said he had a close relationship with Israel Hayom owner Sheldon Adelson.
“Weinstein set clear guidelines for what’s a conflict of interest,” Margalit said. “On the last day of his post as finance minister, he tripled the annual license fee to permit the functioning of Channel 10, which had negative reports about him. Acting the way he’s acting is very troublesome, and it must be stopped.”