Despite Criticism, Herzog Continues to Pursue a Coalition Deal With Netanyahu

Herzog is expected to offer his Zionist Union's co-leader Livni two cabinet portfolios to soften her opposition, but a source said her resistance stems from principle.

Labor's Young Guard protest outside Isaac Herzog's home in Tel Aviv, May 15, 2016.
Ofer Vaknin

Zionist Union leader Isaac Herzog is continuing his efforts to try to bring his faction into the government despite criticism from within the Zionist Union, although sources close to Herzog acknowledged that the chances that the efforts will come to fruition are not high. 

The Zionist Union is a joint slate consisting of Herzog’s Labor Party and co-leader Tzipi Livni’s Hatnuah. In an attempt to broaden support for the Zionist Union joining the government, Herzog is expected to offer two ministerial cabinet posts and one senior deputy minister appointment to members of Livni’s Hatnuah, despite the firm opposition expressed last week by Livni and her Hatnuah colleagues against joining Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government.

Sources expressed the hope that the generous offer to Hatnuah, which is a smaller portion of the Zionist Union’s Knesset delegation than Herzog’s Labor Party, may soften resistance in Hatnuah to joining the government. A source close to Livni said however that the opposition to joining the government is one of principle and is not based on state appointments.

Herzog also expects that opposition to joining the government would shrink if a deal were approved by his party’s convention, where he has an apparent majority. He said he expects his Knesset party colleagues who have been objecting to joining the government to fall into line if and when the party institutions approve an agreement. But in the interim at least, opposition within the upper ranks of the Labor Party has continued, with former party leader Shelly Yacimovich and Knesset member Miki Rosenthal harshly criticizing Herzog. 

On Channel 2’s “Meet the Press,” Yacimovich said Herzog “has no right to throw away our values and ideology” for what she called a “fig leaf.” She said she would have considered a proposal if it were a real unity government with common policy guidelines.

Rosenthal went so far in a Facebook post as to say that the damage that Herzog was inflicting on the party was impossible to repair as long as he remained at the party’s helm. Dozens of party activists expressed their opposition to joining the government by demonstrating Saturday in front of Herzog’s home in Tel Aviv.

A source said the prime minister and Zionist Union leader are close to an agreement. “The problem at the moment is not the terms of an agreement, but rather Herzog’s ability to bring his party into the government,” said the source, who added that most of Herzog’s demands from last week could be resolved. “For example, the Zionist Union can be given the right to break with the prime minister on the government’s natural gas policy and would also have the right to support policies protecting the status of the Supreme Court."

There were some red faces on Friday when a poster purportedly listing the Zionist Union’s conditions for joining the government where posted on Herzog’s official Facebook page. They were removed after a short time. The Zionist Union leader’s associates said that a party staff person had posted them without his knowledge. The six conditions were: lowering the cost of living; involvement in policy decisions on offshore natural gas; authority to fight the international boycott of Israel; protecting the Supreme Court; repeal of legislation seen as racist; and negotiations with other countries in the region and implementation of Herzog’s plan to separate Israel and the Palestinian population.