Herzog Insists He'll Stay on as Party Leader: No Place in Zionist Union for 'Radical Leftists'

Party chairman says opportunity to 'change the region' has been lost following the failure of his coalition negotiations, accuses MK Yacimovich of crossing the line by calling him 'a dog.' His co-chair Livni calls for creation of alternative bloc.

Zionist Union leader Isaac Herzog, May 16, 2016.
Emil Salman

Zionist Union Chairman Isaac Herzog announced on Saturday that he would not resign from the leadership of the party following the failure of his negotiations to enter the Likud-led coalition.

He also maintained that there was "no place in Zionist Union for the radical left," referring to former leader Shelly Yacimovich and other party members who opposed his move to join the government.

Resignation, Herzog told a Shabbat cultural event in Kfar Saba, would "provide dubious satisfaction to left-wing radicals and the radical right who dragged along [Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu."

"The unholy alliance between radicals ruined the chances of preventing the next round of funerals."

Herzog sharply attacked Yacimovich, saying that "whoever concluded that talking with the prime minister was a blood marriage – whoever compared me to a dog on all-fours – has crossed the line, from my perspective."

"The [popular far-right rapper] Shadow called [outgoing Defense Minister Moshe] Ya'alon a dog and Shelly Yacimovich called me a dog. That's crossing the line."

Meanwhile, Herzog's Zionist Union partner, Hatnuah leader Tzipi Livni, on Saturday called for the creation of "an alternative bloc that can win the approval of the public."

"What is important right now," she wrote on her Facebook page, "is to pick ourselves up and together create an alternative bloc I invite the public to decide who will be in the leadership of the bloc that will beat this bad government. Ego struggles need to be put aside."

"The events of the past week are not just a political or leadership crisis," Livni added. "They are also a crisis of values."

"Netanyahu had a choice this week between two defense ministers: One who supported a code of ethics for the IDF and its leadership and another who went out to demonstrate against them."

Speaking at another Shabbat event Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid said that he "saluted" outgoing defense minister Moshe Ya'alon, who, Lapid added, "should be part of the country's leadership."

"What would [former prime minister Menachem] Begin say about today's Likud?" Lapid asked. "A Likud in which [Ya'alon] resigns one day and Yehuda Glick takes his place in the Knesset the next," he added, referring to the Temple Mount activist in line to inherit Ya'alon's Knesset seat.

"The past week highlighted that Israel needs to choose between Greater Israel or petty politics. The leadership is currently involved with handing out jobs instead of values – and that has to end."

On Saturday, Herzog also insisted that the failure of his coalition negotiations had prevented him from taking "a step that would definitely have changed the entire region."

"With the launch of a regional diplomatic initiative, which I was planning with Netanyahu and international elements, Israel would for the first time have related positively to elements of the Arab peace plan and begun, for the first time, to negotiate with the Arab states," Herzog said.

Herzog added that everything he had said regarding Zionist Union's gains in the negotiations was slowly being corroborated.

"It has been confirmed that I received both the foreign ministry and the defense ministry," he said. "That I received a veto on [settlement] building, a veto on crazy legislation that endangers Israeli society and democracy and a dramatic diplomatic package."

"I didn't crawl and I didn't subjugate myself. If I had crawled, I would have been foreign minister a long time ago."