(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Now that opposition leader Isaac Herzog has firmly closed the door on joining Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government, he took a step Monday to initiate a leadership race inside his Labor Party.
Herzog appointed Labor secretary- general Hilik Bar to consult with possible candidates and senior Labor figures in order to reach a compromise on the date for the party’s leadership race. It may not be an easy task. Herzog wants the election as late as possible, MK Erel Margalit as soon as possible, and Histadrut Labor Federation chief Avi Nissenkorn after the May 2017 Histadrut leadership race.
“It may be easier to solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” joked Bar, who heads the Knesset’s two-state lobby.
Bar will meet over the next week and a half with MKs Herzog, Margalit, Shelly Yacimovich, Amir Peretz and Eitan Cabel, as well as Nissenkorn. He said he had no plans to consult with two other possible Labor leadership candidates who have not joined the party, former IDF chiefs of staff Gabi Ashkenazi and Benny Gantz.
“If Gabi decides to enter politics, he has my phone number,” Bar said.
As soon as a consensus date for the race is reached, it will be brought to a Labor convention for approval in two or three weeks. Herzog is expected to face criticism at the convention for his unsuccessful attempt to bring Labor into the government.
Netanyahu called on Herzog to join the coalition at Monday’s Likud faction meeting, saying he wants anyone who can be helpful on diplomatic and security issues inside his government.
But Herzog rejected the offer and instead tried to persuade Kulanu leader Moshe Kahlon to take his party out of the coalition.
“Two weeks ago Netanyahu asked me to change the face of the state and lead historic diplomatic steps,” Herzog told his faction.
“I was willing to pay a sacrifice [of] my political image to change the reality and prevent bloodshed. But at the moment of truth he got scared, because he is strong with slogans, [and] weak in leadership.”
Herzog said he understands why Netanyahu is called a magician.
He said everything good Netanyahu touches disappears, including hope, vision and former defense minister Moshe Ya’alon. Herzog said Netanyahu will also disappear because he will be overshadowed by hawks in his government.
Turning to Kahlon, Herzog said he is the only one who could end the dangers posed by a right-wing government.
He revealed that he had spoken to Kahlon, and that he is worried about the government’s current makeup.
“There are times when a leader must take a chance and pay a heavy price for his own internal truth,” Herzog said. “Only you can make the ethical decision. This is your moment of truth. Don’t miss this opportunity.”
Kahlon, who is out of the country, did not respond.
His Kulanu faction did not meet Monday.