Herzog Forced to Scramble for Empathy From Labor Peers Who Want Him Gone

Shelly Yacimovich and Amir Peretz see themselves as potential replacements for the Labor Party leader, but not necessarily just yet. The current situation, in which Herzog is bleeding and neutralized, is ideal for them.

Zionist Union leader Isaac Herzog at an event in honor of MK Shelly Yacimovich, April 10, 2016.
Tomer Appelbaum

The calendar forced Labor Party Chairman Isaac Herzog to reluctantly participate in two festive party events this week – one marking the 10th anniversary of MK Shelly Yacimovich’s entry into politics, and another in honor of the prodigal son who comes and goes and comes and goes and always returns, MK Amir Peretz.

Even as “the noose is tightening” around him, as the old saying goes, and more and more members of his faction are uttering words like “vacation” or “suspension” (from what, exactly?), Herzog is being forced to scramble for empathy from those who seek his political liquidation. The man on death row is celebrating with his potential hangmen.

Yacimovich and Peretz are both people who, under the right circumstances, are liable to rise up against him. Not at any price, and not at any moment, but it’s no secret that both have their sights set on Herzog’s job, which both have held in the past.

Nevertheless, neither is in a hurry. They’re smart and experienced enough to know that the merchandise isn’t in the best condition. With Herzog or without him, the Labor Party’s brand has peaked, as has that of the joint ticket on which Labor ran in the last election, Zionist Union.

Yacimovich and Peretz each headed Labor once before, and neither worked wonders. Both are seen as used goods. They can ensure their party another depressing term in opposition, but they certainly can’t bring it to power. The current situation, in which Herzog remains in the job, bleeding and neutralized, is ideal for both of them right now, just as it is for other potential candidates for the party leadership, such as MKs Erel Margalit and Omer Bar-Lev.

Reportedly, an official criminal investigation will soon be opened against Herzog, which will presumably result in him being questioned under caution. There’s no guarantee it will result in an indictment, but you don’t need especially sharp ears to hear the music: The Labor Party chairman will have great trouble retaining his job after being interrogated by the police on suspicion of violating campaign finance laws for the second time in the last two decades. And if Herzog has to step aside, the party will fall into real chaos.

Herzog on Tuesday termed the case to which his name has been linked “a libel.” Publicly, he is broadcasting self-confidence and determination to remain in office. His staffers are asking MKs from the party to give interviews and express confidence in his innocence. Very few have acceded to this request, and when they’re pressed, they begin writhing and offering tortuous justifications.

Yacimovich said Tuesday, not for the first time, that these are difficult days for the party, that she fears Labor will pay a heavy price, and that she has otherwise sentenced herself to silence about the case because it concerns the primary in which Herzog defeated her more than two years ago.

What she hasn’t said is what Peretz said Tuesday night in a speech in Tel Aviv’s Hayarkon Park: that he believes in Herzog’s innocence.