Newly Elected Labor Leader Says Won't Join Netanyahu Government

Longtime party MK ousts Yacimovich, taking 58.5% of vote.

Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis

Newly elected Labor Party chairman Isaac Herzog declared Saturday night that he would not join the Netanyahu government, which he called “paralyzed,” saying that such a move “would not be logical for us.” Herzog made the comments during a Channel 2 “Meet the Press” interview, two days after his landslide victory over incumbent chairwoman and opposition leader Shelly Yacimovich.

"I don't recommend the prime minister go to sleep with one eye open, awaiting a call from me," said Herzog. "There is no point entering the Netanyahu government in its current composition. Does he have a government that will agree to evacuate settlements? This is a paralyzed coalition. There is no reason or logic to sit in it."

During the television appearance, Herzog, 53, also said he saw himself as a future prime minister.

He won 58.5 percent of the vote to Yacimovich's 41.5 percent in Thursday's Labor Party leadership election.

Yacimovich called Herzog on Friday morning to congratulate him. Following the phone call between the two, Herzog said he is looking forward to working with Yacimovich, saying he sees her as an important partner in leading the party back to power. “We are embarking today on the real journey to change the face of the state,” he said in a statement.

In a message posted on her Facebook page, Yacimovich said she respects the party’s decision. “I will cooperate with him and help him to

strengthen the Labor as an alternative to Netanyahu’s politically and economically right-wing government.”

In her first public statement since the loss, the ousted party leader said on Saturday: "I want to put this failure and it is a failure -- we must call it by its name -- in the right context. We are not dragged along by trends and fashions. We have an essential path...which is more patriotic than any other."

She also said she would not do to Herzog what others had done to her when she was elected, demanding guaranteed spots in the party. "Leadership is not built through jobs and deals, but through forging a path."

Meretz Chairwoman Zahava Gal-On issued a statement congratulating Herzog Friday morning. “I congratulate Knesset Member Isaac Herzog

and call the Labor Party to stay with Meretz in the opposition and not join Netanyahu’s coalition.”

Finance Minister Yair Lapid congratulated the newly-elected party leader. “Best wishes to ‘Bougie’ Herzog. He is my friend for many years, and

I am happy for him,” he wrote on his Facebook page.

Herzog, a lawyer, has been a Labor Party member since 1985 and a Member of Knesset since 2003. He served in previous governments as minister of housing and construction, minister of tourism, minister of welfare and social services, minister of the Diaspora, society, and fight against anti-Semitism.

The son of Israel’s sixth president Chaim Herzog, Isaac is better known by his nickname “Bougie,” which he was given by his Egyptian-born, French-speaking mother, who combined the French word for doll, “poupee,” with the Hebrew equivalent, “buba.”

Herzog prefers to be called Isaac when speaking with English-speakers or foreigners, not its Hebrew version, Yitzhak. “Isaac” was how he was known by his fellow pupils at Ramah High School in New York, where he studied while his father served as Israeli ambassador to the United Nations, he told Haaretz in an interview several years ago.

Herzog is the scion of a blue-blooded family. He is named after his grandfather, Rabbi Isaac Halevy Herzog, who was the Ashkenazi chief rabbi

prior to Israel’s statehood. His uncle was Abba Eban, a Mapai party leader and the foreign minister from 1966 to 1974 (Eban

was married to Herzog’s aunt Suzy, the sister of his mother, Aura Herzog). His other uncle was Yaakov Herzog, the director general of the Prime Minister’s Office during the Levy Eshkol and Golda Meir administrations.

New Labor Party leader Isaac Herzog; Can he create a broad-based opposition?Credit: Daniel Bar-On

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