Herzog nixes Lapid-led government, pushes elections

Opposition leader says he believes he will head the next government.

Protests in Isawiya, the Arab village and neighborhood in Jerusalem (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Protests in Isawiya, the Arab village and neighborhood in Jerusalem
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Opposition leader Isaac Herzog on Saturday night ruled out the possibility of an alternative government being formed in the current Knesset.
Finance Minister Yair Lapid’s chief of staff, Hillel Kobrinsky, warned coalition chairman Ze’ev Elkin last week that the Yesh Atid leader could form a new coalition in the current Knesset, if the Likud continued to prevent key elements of the 2015 state budget from passing.
Speculation shifted over the weekend to Herzog forming such a government because he, unlike Lapid, could obtain the support of Shas and United Torah Judaism. But the opposition leader threw cold water on the idea, saying that Israel needs elections to fix its problems.
“I don’t see an alternative government as feasible, because it would require Lapid and the haredim [ultra-Orthodox] and [Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor] Liberman sitting together with [Meretz head Zehava] Gal-On,” Herzog said. “I don’t see it as possible. It is a myth.”
Herzog said that after an election, which he estimated would take place within a year, he could form a government that would include parties from across the political spectrum.
Herzog blasted Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for remarks he made challenging Israeli Arab protesters to go live under Palestinian rule in the West Bank or Gaza if they do not like living in Israel.
“Whoever adds fuel to the fire mustn’t be surprised by the height of the flames,” Herzog said, going on to accuse Netanyahu of chasing votes rather than governing. “Israel has no responsible national leadership.”
Liberman, Gal-On, Kadima head Shaul Mofaz, and Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein all ruled out an alternative government being formed over the weekend, and even Lapid himself has spoken out against the idea. Political sources said that, even though Netanyahu has taken the threat seriously, it was only a pressure tactic related to the budget.
Speaking on Channel 2’s Meet the Press, Edelstein said he would not negotiate with Lapid on passing his flagship zero-percent VAT bill. He said it would come to a vote only when it became clear that the budget would be passed into law, even if it meant the threat of elections.
“It could be that we will soon go to elections,” he said. “It would be a foolish mistake that would harm the people of Israel.”
Liberman is reportedly working to mediate between Lapid and Likud on their differences over the budget. Finance Committee chairman Nissan Slomiansky (Bayit Yehudi) expressed confidence that the budget would advance in his committee soon.
Slomiansky’s Bayit Yehudi colleague, Construction Minister Uri Ariel (Bayit Yehudi), was issued security guards over the weekend due to threats that reached the Prime Minister’s Office.
“This is apparently the price you have to pay in the Middle East for standing for your Zionist principles,” Ariel said.