Herzog Says Opposition Is ‘Only Realistic Option,’ Vows to Fight ‘Radical Right’ Gov’t

Tzipi Livni also said she would not be part of Netanyahu's coalition and that the battle isn't over.

Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis
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Isaac Herzog and Tzipi Livni, March 18, 2015.
Isaac Herzog and Tzipi Livni, March 18, 2015.Credit: Moti Milrod
Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis

Zionist Union leader Isaac Herzog said Wednesday his party would spend the next Knesset term in the opposition, ending speculations that he may join a national unity government led by Benjamin Netanyahu.

“Going to the opposition is the only realistic option we have,” Herzog said Wednesday at a meeting with the first 30 people on the party’s Knesset slate.

“We will be a worthy alternative in every field and issue to radical rightist government whose time is limited,” Herzog said.

Tzipi Livni also said she would not be part of Netanyahu’s coalition and that the battle isn’t over.

“There are two paths of different values here. One is Netanyahu’s and his partners’ way, the other is ours and of our allies. We must present an alternative to the way that doesn’t see the people and doesn’t have social justice at heart,” she said.

Labor’s Knesset faction members came to the meeting with mixed feelings. On the one hand, Herzog’s party did not gain enough votes to become the ruling party and the Zionist Union thus will not be able to keep most of its promises to the voters. On the other hand, the union between Labor and Hatnua proved successful and the party emerged as the second largest in the next Knesset, far ahead of the others.

The party activists’ resentment was mainly directed at Yair Lapid and his party Yesh Atid, which are seen as having taken from Zionist Camp precious votes that could have landed Herzog in the prime minister’s seat.

Although under Labor’s constitution Herzog will have to contend anew for his party’s leadership, due to its election failure, nobody in the party has attacked him personally for the results and party members treated him with respect and sympathy.

“There was a feeling of despair, we’re in post-trauma. We gathered to hug each other,” one faction member said.

“Everyone spoke in positive terms. No knives or swords were drawn. The work in the field was spoken highly of, although it didn’t function in the campaign. People even complimented the campaign, although it was a failure,” another said.

MK Stav Shaffir was the first to declare she would not join a unity government. “We’ll serve the people from the opposition,” she wrote on Facebook Wednesday.

“A large part of the public expressed no confidence in Bibi’s way. Our challenge today is to reflect this large faction, and offer it a vision and leadership,” she wrote.

MK Itzik Shmuli marked the main problems that led to the campaign’s failure.

“We had no answer to Netanyahu’s ‘gevalt’ campaign,” he said. “My idea to launch a campaign to steal votes from Yesh Atid was implemented too late and didn’t achieve its goal. Our presence in the field should have been more pronounced.”

Other MKs said there were real shortcomings in running the campaign that “made holes in the boat we were in.”

Campaign chief Reuven Adler admitted that Herzog’s participation in the “mini-debate” on Channel 2 News, beside Netanyahu’s large image on a TV screen, harmed Herzog’s chances.

“The debate on Channel 2 was a trap. It could have played a part in the final result,” Adler said in an interview with Army Radio Wednesday.

Labor MKs listed other malfunctions. “The scandalous remarks by Yair Garbuz and Yehoshua Sobol did us grave harm. People identified the Zionist Union with those statements and Bennett and Netanyhu used it in their campaign against us. We had no answer to that,” one MK said.

“Even our ‘it’s us or him’ slogan served Netanyahu in the end. The rightist voters were panic stricken after the delegitimization by Likud and Habayit Hayehudi and came out en masse to vote for Netanyahu,” he said.

Another key problem was the campaign team’s decision to focus on social and economic issues rather than security oriented ones, while Netanyahu led an intimidation campaign around Iran, ISIS and Arabs “taking over” the Knesset, MKs said.

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