Yesterday Haaretz published a 2006 statement by Labor MK Isaac Herzog, released by WikiLeaks, in which he said the public perceives Labor head Amir Peretz as inexperienced, aggressive and Moroccan. Herzog went on to say that it's a good thing that the Labor Party has a strong slate of Ashkenazi Jews of central and eastern European extraction to balance him out.
Labor MK Eitan Cabel reacted by saying that Herzog was not qualified to run for the leadership of Labor.
Eitan Cabel, can it be said that all Herzog is doing is describing the weaknesses and strengths of the party? After all, there was serious racism toward Amir Peretz. Can you ignore that?
"I ignored it? I fought against it! What you're saying would be correct had it only been a matter of Herzog's interpretation of the public. I'm telling you again, nobody would have been upset. His attitude was personal, referring to the fact that the slate is Ashkenazi and that's what's saving us. Nu really, what do I have to explain him? Do I have to defend myself? That has nothing to do with my relationship with Herzog. I repeat: Anyone who refers to the election or non-election of Amir Peretz with ethnic slurs and is in the place where he is - there's no room for that. You're not a commentator on those things."
But it seems to me that you all share a common interest in rehabilitating and building the Labor Party. Isn't what is happening now the regular Labor Party dirt?
"Yes, that's how we've been behaving, to my regret, for a long time. But I repeat, madam, you're mistaken. And if you could write my tone of voice in capital letters - the problem isn't my fault, and it's impossible for us to sweep such things under the rug! Why, for God's sake? What's the connection to politics? Can a person like me, who is expected to make ethical statements, stand on the sidelines? What did I say? Am I promoting myself? All I say is that a person who speaks in such a way can't lead a party! Excuse me! After all, quite a large share of our problems are not the arguments among us. Cut that out! There were far tougher arguments within the Labor Party, and that's actually ignoring the need to deal with the problems, it's sweeping them under the rug all the time! I was never raised on such things, I'm innocent of that!"
I saw that you said today that you're Yemenite, and you never thought about the significance of that. How is that possible?
"That's what I'm trying to say, why do you always have to be judged that way? Why are there always people from whom you expect superlative abilities? I'm telling you again that if it was just citing things in the name of the speaker, it wouldn't have been written. After all, what turned the text into something else? Herzog's interpretation of it! That's the whole difference. In the morning when I saw the paper I approached it very cautiously."
And what did you feel when you saw it?
"Listen, I felt ... It was terrible. Believe me, I read it two or three times. And I'm not apologizing to anyone. He's the one who has to apologize, because now he's saying 'My words were taken out of context.' The entire world is WikiLeaks, he's the only one taken out of context, all they thought about was waiting for the contest in the Labor Party."
How do you think it will develop?
"I don't know how it will develop, I'm only expressing my opinion. I think that he can't run. A person who makes statements of that kind, and I also get phone calls from people who were around him, it's unpleasant."
"Statements, all kinds of things, people remind me of all kinds of things."
What, people are calling you now and telling you that that's how Herzog talks?
"Yes, you know how it is, I don't want to open things up to another discussion of who said what to whom. Let's put it this way, if I had any doubt, there were people who made sure to overturn those thoughts, who explained to me how he used to speak on these matters. But I don't want to deal with that. I spoke very calmly, I didn't attack him, nothing, I'm only saying that the things he said are serious things. And you can interpret him as much as you like, but he doesn't even remember! He starts to say: Show me."
Herzog says that you're using this for your own advantage.
"So he said it. Have I taken advantage during two years in the government? Meanwhile I was the one fighting over principles during the past two years."
What will this saga do to the Labor Party?
"The Labor Party's problems are not whether it will or won't get votes. We're dealing now with who will be the chairman of the party and whether this party can be revived. What do you think, that now things will or won't change because of what happened before this statement? There's no need to exaggerate. Our problems are very serious, very basic, very existential. I don't think this will affect the Labor Party."
Are you planning on taking some action that will prevent Herzog from running?
"No, absolutely not. I only gave my opinion."
Is there anything he can do that would make him worthy again to run?
"It's up to him. I don't issue certificates saying if something is kosher, it's not my job. All I'm saying is, let's not be naive and present it only as 'our listener reported to the diplomats, and he's reporting the murmurings to everyone in the world.' The fact is that what Herzog is praising is that it's fortunate that the slate is Ashkenazi and strong, that's what he said! What does he know about what the outcome will be? He didn't dream that we would get 19 seats at the time."
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