(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Opposition leader and Zionist Union chairman Issac Herzog warned on Saturday that Israel was headed toward fascism and that its fate as a democracy was at stake.
"We are going through a process of fascistization of the Israeli politics," Herzog warned while speaking at a cultural event in central Israel. "Whoever is wary of the country's fate and would like to prevent the fascistization has to support the transition into one big and moderate political bloc in order to change this trend," he said.
"We have to change the regime in order to save the Israeli democracy from the fascistization that is threatening it," Herzog continued.
The opposition leader explained that the current government was "threatening artists, Supreme Court judges and threatening and firing journalists." He also noted that media outlets were being shut down and that "now the academics and the professors are also being threatened and are afraid to open their mouths."
Herzog charged that the current government headed by the Likud party was slowly clamping down on the country's arts and culture scene and trampling over basic democratic rights such as freedom of speech. "This is how the country is deteriorating to rock bottom," he added.
The Zionist Union leader was also pessimistic about the country's future alongside its neighbors. Speaking about recent US efforts to revive peace negotiations
with the Palestinians, Herzog said that "there is a true concern that the American effort will fail. This means that we could be dragged into a regional conflict."
Herzog then reiterated his own alternative solution to the conflict. "I suggest as a middle stage to establish a Palestinian state according to temporary borders, plus parts of the Area C territories, which would include Gaza that would be under the responsibility of the Palestinian Authority, without addressing the core issues."
"This," he continued, "would take five to ten years and in the meantime we will act [to promote] economic growth, and fight incitement to terror."
Speaking further about his vision, Herzog said that such a plan would "create a reality of a state, an horizon of hope for the younger generation of the two peoples instead of reaching a state of stagnation."
Isaac Herzog at the JPost Annual Conference 2017
Herzog concluded by saying that certain voices within the coalition were pressuring Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu into preserving the current state of affairs. "Bennett and Shaked are paralyzing Netanyahu and he lies. [These are] political interests that are ruining the country, and only [by] joining forces we can change that."
Herzog was taking a stab at Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked and Education Minister Naftali Bennett. The latter came under fire earlier this week when he spoke favorably about a draft of an academy ethics code that would ban professors from expressing their political opinions in class.
It also suggested that that units would be established on campuses to enforce the ban, and students could complain to them about violations. The code would also forbid academic institutions from cooperating with NGOs that are politically affiliated.
Udi Shaham contributed to this report.