Herzog Can Breathe a Sigh of Relief: Labor Party Doesn't Blame Him for Loss

Party leaders question failure to appeal to voters in outlying areas of Israel.

Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis
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Israeli Labor Party leader and co-leader of the Zionist Union list Isaac Herzog prays at the Western Wall, in the Old City of Jerusalem on March 15, 2015.
Israeli Labor Party leader and co-leader of the Zionist Union list Isaac Herzog prays at the Western Wall, in the Old City of Jerusalem on March 15, 2015.Credit: AFP
Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis

Isaac Herzog can claim one major achievement to his credit, and that is that despite his slate’s resounding failure in its effort to unseat Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in last week’s election, Knesset members from the Zionist Union slate, a joint ticket composed of his Labor Party and Tzipi Livni’s Hatnuah, are not calling at least officially for recriminations and are not seeking to replace him. Any leadership race would be 14 months away in any event.

Herzog has struck an optimistic tone. In an interview Saturday with Channel 2 he denied that the election result represented a personal failure and vowed that he would still succeed Netanyahu. Party sources also expressed satisfaction that the Zionist Union will be significantly expanding its representation in the new Knesset to 24 seats, noting that the slate will be the second largest Knesset faction and will dominate the opposition.

One senior party official expressed ironic relief that Netanyahu will be able to form a majority government without the Zionist Union. “If Netanyahu had proposed a national unity government [including the Zionist Union], the Labor Party would have splintered due to infighting between supporters of the move and diehard opponents,” he said.

Party members are divided, however, over how to attract support from outlying areas of the country, where the Zionist Union’s showing was poor.

“No campaign in the world can change the clear statement of the voting public that they prefer Netanyahu and Likud,” Zionist Union MK and former Labor Party leader Shelly Yacimovich conceded to an audience in Bat Yam on Saturday. In reference to former Kadima party leader and former defense minister Shaul Mofaz, she said the failure to bring Mofaz into the Zionist Union was a mistake, as were comments by artist Yair Garbuz at a pre-election rally in Tel Aviv that were hostile to religion, even though he was not a Labor Party representative.

“Many members of the public felt, rightly, that Garbuz expresses views that unfortunately exist among many of us,” she said.

On the other hand, Labor MK Merav Michaeli said: “I don’t accept the self-critical paradigm. I do not think that the faction and the political left wing in Israel are patronizing. They are really totally committed. It isn’t a matter of self-criticism over substance but rather over the means – how to be accepted by this segment of the public. [Labor Party MK] Itzik Shmuli led [the effort] to stop water from being shut off for overdue bills and I led the repeal of imprisonment of debtors who owed money through the bailiff’s office, but it doesn’t help us with this segment of the public.

“The right wing acts like it is still the victim and we are in power, Michaeli added. “The left never threw people out of their homes. Just the right wing has done so, but Likud warns that we are the ones that will do so.”

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