As Labor MKs Trade Barbs, Sources Say Unity Government Talks to End by Weekend

Shelly Yacimovich slams Zionist Union faction head Isaac Herzog for 'journey of humiliation' en route to entering the coalition.

Isaac Herzog and Shelly Yacimovich of the Labor Party, in Tel Aviv in April, 2016.
Tomer Appelbaum

The fate of a possible unity government including Zionist Union will most likely be determined by the weekend, say sources in that faction and in Likud.

“Isaac Herzog will need to make a decision within a day or two,” a senior figure in the coalition who is involved in the talks told Haaretz, referring to the Zionist Union and opposition leader. “It is impossible to drag it out any more. [Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu very much wants to finish the process before the Knesset returns from its recess, by next Monday.”

“For now," the source added, however, "there are certain gaps that even Netanyahu and Herzog cannot manage to overcome in their private meetings."

Within the Labor Party, which formed Zionist Union with Tzipi Livni's Hatnuah, expectations rose that Herzog will call a meeting of the party's central committee to approve the agreement with Netanyahu by Sunday. Officials close to Herzog denied this, and asserted, “No date has been set for the committee.” Such rumors, the officials added, are just so much “strange noise” being made by those who oppose Labor's entry into the government, including party MKs Shelly Yacimovich and Erel Margalit.

For her part, Yacimovich harshly criticized Herzog Tuesday, stressing that she would not cooperate with efforts to join the coalition on the basis of the present conditions on offer from Netanyahu.

“In the Labor Party there is no sole ruler who can save his skin and escape from one horror or another, to lead an entire party to ruin,” Yacimovich told Israel Radio.

“To my regret, with the same preposterous and empty offers, we are proceeding on a journey of humiliation,” she added.

Yacimovich said Herzog was the one who leaked recordings in which he was overheard explaining coalition negotiations in internal party discussions during the past few days, and she demanded that he be interviewed publicly and answer questions.

In recordings broadcast Tuesday on Army Radio, Herzog could be heard discussing polls that had been reported on television the previous day, which show that most of the Israeli public opposes a unity government.

“I am not deterred by these or other surveys which are a passing fashion. When you examine them in depth, you see most of the public does not know what is involved, and gives 30 percent support for the move, mostly from the bloc that I lead as opposed to the right-wing bloc,” Herzog said in the recordings.

Herzog added that if no true cooperation will exist in a unity government with Netanyahu, there will be no such government.

“The differences are substantial enough so that if there will be no true partnership, I will end the process, look the public in the eye and tell the truth," he said. "I am certain I can convince them [the public] in one direction or the other.”

In response to Yacimovich's comments, Herzog’s office said: “We are not in the movie ‘The Godfather’ and it would be best if the threats were left at home. Mr. Herzog will not be deterred by threats and attacks by those with political interests. As of now, there are large gaps and it is not clear whether the move is feasible, but he will continue to act with consideration and responsibility in order to examine it for the good of the nation and its citizenry.”