Herzog denies he’s on the way to government as MKs tussle

Kahlon repeats call to expand coalition, but says it’s not an ultimatum.

MK Herzog
The debate among Zionist Union MKs as to whether or not the party should join the coalition grew heated Saturday, though the party’s leader Isaac Herzog clarified that he is not negotiating the matter.
“It’s exhausting. Analysts ‘report’ on ‘negotiations for unity,’ and we automatically, once again, have to deny,” Herzog tweeted. “In what language do you want it? Bibi [Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu] must be brought down, not saved.”
MK Eitan Broshi (Zionist Union), who has advocated for joining the coalition in the past, sent a letter to Herzog saying their party could hold Netanyahu to his public commitments to a two-state solution.
“After the 2015-2016 budget was approved in the Knesset and in today’s complex reality, the need to answer central and important questions and make historic decisions on the fate and future of the state, we must examine the Zionist Union faction’s entry into the government,” he wrote.
Broshi pointed out that Netanyahu has said many times that he is committed to a two-state solution and wants negotiations with the Palestinians as soon as possible and without preconditions.
“Based on the prime minister’s commitment, and if there are changes in the government’s guidelines, we should seriously consider whether the conditions are ripe and reasons exist that justify Zionist Union joining the government,” he said.
The Zionist Union MK also mentioned the current wave of terrorism and Israel’s international relations as reasons to have the faction “influence the path, image and borders of the state according to our worldview.”
Broshi asked Herzog to call a Labor central committee meeting to vote on whether to negotiate joining the government and to check with the prime minister and coalition leadership as to whether they would seriously consider the Zionist Union joining the coalition.
Labor sources said, however, that Herzog has checked with most of his MKs as to whether they would support joining the coalition and all but Broshi either said “no” or that they would not do so publicly.
“Zionist Union joining the government, breaking a clear election promise that was given to a massive public, would be a severe betrayal of the voters’ trust and a destructive mistake,” said MK Stav Shaffir (Zionist Union).
“We lead a different path, and now it is clearer than ever that it will lead Israel to stability in its security, a diplomatic horizon and economic security for its citizens,” she added.
Shaffir said “hacks like Broshi” only entered the Knesset because their spot was saved – Broshi represents kibbutzim – and they want to gain favor on the right in order to give jobs to those close to them. She called such efforts “obscene and pathetic.”
MK Itzik Shmuli (Zionist Union) wrote on Twitter that he is equipping himself with a pin to pop Broshi’s test balloon.
Also on Saturday, Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon repeated his call to expand the coalition, but clarified that it is not an ultimatum.
“It’s already been proven that over its entire short term this coalition passed whatever it wanted. The problem of 61 is not whether things pass or not, it is that a narrow government needs a bigger basis of a common denominator. We are a divided, arguing country. Everyone can have his own stance and that is totally fine, but I also think that if the public sees its leaders cooperating more it will cool down the difficult discourse we have today,” Kahlon told Walla! News.
Kahlon added that he plans to talk to Netanyahu and potential partners about expanding the coalition, but that he is “not a person of ultimatums or sanctions, [rather] a person of agreements.”
On Thursday, the Knesset Channel reported that, following the passage of the budget, Netanyahu said he does not plan to bring Zionist Union into the coalition.