In Heated Interview, Herzog Declares: 'I Don’t Want My Country to Be Called Isra-tine'

Haaretz puts the Zionist Union leader on the spot in this Q&A.

Nir Gontarz
Nir Gontarz
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Zionist Chairman Isaac Herzog.
Zionist Chairman Isaac Herzog.Credit: AFP
Nir Gontarz
Nir Gontarz

Hello to opposition leader Isaac (Bougie) Herzog. Gontarz speaking. Let’s talk about the boycott movement. Let’s say I run a business in England and don’t want to work with an Israeli company that’s active in the territories, which are not part of sovereign Israel. What’s not legitimate about that?

For years there has been a kind of thunderous silence from the business sector and an aversion to raising this issue, whereas nearly every player in that sector or in academia has been hurt by the boycott. It’s not just Judea and Samaria. We are talking about the very existence of the state.

Not so. It’s just on the fringe of the fringe.

It’s not on the fringe. There is a vast network, funded by Arab states, including Saudi Arabia and the Gulf, that is giving it support.

And we have no connection to the allegations being voiced against us. Interesting.

The worldview of Benjamin Netanyahu in his years as prime minister is leading us into a situation in which we will be an Arab-Jewish state. Heaven forbid. So it is a broader question, which touches on more than a matter of business of one kind or another involving Israel.

Do you know what the annual cost of the occupation is?

From 2009 to 2014, Israel invested 10 billion shekels [$2.5 billion] in Judea and Samaria. That’s a huge amount of the state budget.

And what do we do with this information?

There is a political blueprint for a solution, according to which the [settlement] blocs should be under Israeli sovereignty, with land swaps. Netanyahu, with his do-nothing policy, believes that he will conquer and annex the whole area. It sounds sexy, but it will be the most serious historical mistake of the Jewish people in the Land of Israel.

Help me out here. In spite of everything you’re saying, I don’t get the feeling that you are the leader of the opposition. Why is that?

Because you reflect the incessant grumbling of a camp that’s looking for the next person to trash.

You’re wrong about that.

I am above all an Israeli patriot.

So am I.

As an Israeli patriot, my worldview says: No concession for the sake of concession. With intelligent diplomatic moves, Israel could be on the right side of the map. I am not willing to have 61 Palestinian Knesset members at the end of the road, I don’t want the national anthem to be replaced, I don’t want my country to be called Isra-tine, and I’m not ready to

Hey, you’re repeating your speech from the Herzliya Conference [earlier this week] and you still don’t sound like the leader of an opposition.

Hey, I’m repeating it because it’s good for your readers to know about that speech and to use it as a central motif in the public debate in Israel.

Fine. I still don’t get the feeling you are the leader of an opposition.

Then you don’t know what an opposition is.

What is it?

Just because I am in the opposition doesn’t mean I have to be stuck in the deep left. With all due respect. I am a leader who comes from the center.

Got it. You are simply not a person of the left. You are a person of the center.

I am leading a vast camp. I am opposition from the center.

Well, because of that, as a person of the left I don’t feel that you represent me.

That’s your problem.

Not only mine.

I did not say I was a person of the left.

Wow...

I am a person of the center, who believes in the need to divide the land, not because I am dying to give up parts of the homeland, but from necessity.

Alright, the confusion I had in my head about you is now sorted out.

I am indeed a person of the center and I am leading a large center-left camp to a governmental alternative in Israel.

Really, since when is the center an alternative?

What I stand for is the true alternative for Israel.

What alternative? You issued that off-the-wall – sorry – statement in which you accepted a vote-offsetting agreement with the coalition for their snafu with MK Oren Hazan. Are you for real? Why are you suddenly taking responsibility for this Hazan guy?

I am not taking responsibility for him. I am taking responsibility for the honor of the Knesset. It is a very serious affair. It has to be looked into.

I repeat: You are not an opposition to anything.

You’re talking through your hat! When the Speaker of the Knesset asks for a brief period , during which he won’t be able to intimidate and extort

But why take it on yourself? It was their choice. They – Likud – chose him.

I have a debt of responsibility to the honor of the Knesset. I am giving them a week. It’s not a big deal. I am ensuring that people who deviated from the path so terribly will not be in the Knesset, heaven forbid.

What are you talking about? No one can fire him from the Knesset. Why do you always have to be “more righteous than the pope”?

I am not more righteous. I am the leader of the opposition. It is out of the question to express deep shock over the fact that we might have someone in the Knesset who has been involved in trafficking in women, or in prostitution or drugs, but not to allow an investigation.

Let the coalition pay for its choices. If you hadn’t agreed, what would the Knesset Speaker have done? Let him cope. It’s their mess.

The Speaker of the Knesset asked for a safety net

So he asked, so what?

Let me answer, damn it!

Alright. Sorry, sorry.

He asked for a moral safety net.

So the coalition chose a wacko and the opposition is paying for it. Nice.

In this way the nation will see the truth and we will know that this was what the coalition chose. You are only looking at the moment, to see how I’m playing the game. You should know that it still wouldn’t have toppled the government.

Obviously. All the more so, then. Never mind. We won’t agree. How long are you giving the safety net?

Ten days.

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