Herzog: I'd Appoint an Arab Minister - but Arabs Won't Join Coalition

Head of the Zionist Union tells The Marker he has engaged in affirmative action on behalf of the Arab community in every task he has taken on.

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Ahmed Tibi, left, and Isaac Herzog in the Knesset in Jerusalem in 2012.
Ahmed Tibi, left, and Isaac Herzog in the Knesset in Jerusalem in 2012.Credit: Shiran Granot

Zionist Union coleader Isaac Leader told The Marker in a recent interview that he would gladly appoint an Arab minister if tasked with forming the government - but that the united Arab list does not want to join a coalition.

"The Arabs are a very important group. I have always believed this, in every task I did I engaged in affirmative action for the Arab community," said Herzog after being asked if he would bring the Joint List into a coalition. "You need a revolutionary program for the next decade for the Arab community. The Arab Joint List is the one which announced that it had no intention of joining any coalition."

He was then asked what he would do if the Arab party would change its mind.

"After what we saw last week, it's hard for me to see it," he said. "Nevertheless, I really would be pleased if I could appoint an Arab minister, at least one in my government."

Herzog also discussed Zionist Union's economic plan, which he said puts priority on education, health, social welfare and housing would cost the state an additional seven billion shekels ($1.75 billion). Asked how he would fund this plan, he replied that 2.5 billion shekels were freed up by canceling the plan to exempt first-time home buyers from paying Value Added Tax. He said the difference would be covered by extra tax revenues based on projected annual growth of 3 percent.

Herzog added that wasteful spending by the current government could also cover any additional costs, if necessary. He noted, referring to one of his fellow MKs, "If Stav Shaffir discovered in 2014 that the settlement division [of the World Zionist Organization] received 600 million shekels from [Yair] Lapid and [Naftali] Bennett, instead of 50, enough said. And there are more resources. In any event, the plan is covered."

Regarding housing, Herzog said his party's plan is to follow examples from London, Paris, Barcelona and Montreal. The idea is to release the land to developers at no cost. The developers than build housing for the state, which in turn rents out the apartment for 20-25 years at rates that are constitute no more than a third of renters' monthly salaries.

Herzog said he expected defense spending to continue to grow, but at a slower rate.

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