(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu still wants Zionist Union leader Isaac Herzog to be his foreign minister but Herzog played hard-to-get on Monday.
Shortly after Herzog won the right to remain Labor chairman until July 2017 at Sunday's Labor convention, Netanyahu told diplomatic reporters he was keeping the Foreign Affairs portfolio free and hoped to expand the government.
“Our governmental system creates tensions,” Netanyahu said. “Overall the government is functioning well, but I am still interested in expanding it.”
When asked in radio interviews to respond to Netanyahu's offer, Herzog accused the prime minister of being "in hysteria," due to problems in his coalition with Bayit Yehudi. He said he did not regret negotiation with Netanyahu on entering the coalition, nor did he regret saying no.
"Netanyahu made a decision to go in a different direction," Herzog told Army Radio. "He closed the door. He should go home. I am not entering the government."
Herzog told Israel Radio that rather than form a unity government with his party, Netanyahu "decided to form a right-wing extremist government that pressures him horrifically."
At the Zionist Union's faction meeting, Herzog went as far as to compare Netanyahu to former Cuban leader Fidel Castro, because of his recent attempts to impact the free press in Israel.
"Netanyahu wants a press that is subordinate, humiliated, and tied up," Herzog said.
Herzog came into the faction room victorious after the Labor convention. His associates said Tuesday that he would keep his promise to try to expel from the party activists who heckled him at the convention in a manner he considered violent.
But Labor Secretary-General Hilik Bar said only he is permitted by the party's bylaws to expel party members, and he would not permit it to happen.