Herzog Is Determined to Join Netanyahu's Government, Sources Say

Pressure is mounting on Labor members to take their party leader's side. Eleven of the 24 Zionist Union MKs have already stated categorically that they will not join Herzog if he joins the government.

Netanyahu and Herzog in 2014.
Olivieh Fitoussi

Zionist Union leader Isaac Herzog is determined to join the Netanyahu government, members of the Zionist Union said on Tuesday night. 

A lawmaker in the Zionist Union faction said late on Tuesday that he expects Herzog to decide to join governing coalition in the next 24 hours after reaching an agreement with Netanyahu.

"The gaps [between the sides] are shrinking," he said, adding that the Histadrut labor federation was "working as a very disciplined and effective army" to that end. Herzog, the lawmaker added, has passed the point of no return.

Herzog "understands that he can no longer lead the opposition. He lost his credibility and leadership and therefore he has nothing to lose. The problem is that he is taking the party with him, as a hostage," the lawmaker said.

Herzog, senior members of the Labor Party said, is confident that he will be able to get the party's forums to approve such agreement. They also said that members of the Labor's central committee were being pressured to take Herzog's side, ahead of a committee meeting to approve the agreement which could come as early as Sunday.

"Histadrut Secretary General Avi Nissenkorn has begun to prepare the ground for a possible vote," a senior Labor Party member said. "Histadrut leaders and influential activists have been calling hundreds of central committee members in order to prepare them for the vote."

The Labor insiders estimate that Herzog and Nissenkorn have a majority in the central committee, meaning that there's a good chance the agreement will be approved.

As far as is known, Herzog has not yet asked party Secretary General Hilik Bar to convene the central committee.

Despite the pressure on central committee members, Herzog has not yet invested much effort in persuading Zionist Union Knesset members to take his side. The sources said that he was waiting for the agreement to be approved, which, he believes, will help some MKs who are opposed to the agreement to climb down from the tree.

Eleven of the 24 Zionist Union MKs have already stated categorically that they will not join Herzog if he joins the government.

Meanwhile, sources near Yisrael Beiteinu's Avigdor Lieberman rebuffed reports that Netanyahu approached Lieberman with an offer to join his government. "The briefings coming out of the PM's bureau are another spin, one of many we've seen recently. It's another attempt to whitewash letting the Zionist Union in the government against the promises made to voters on the eve of the election."

Sources in Likud also said that Netanyahu's bid to Lieberman and reports in the media were meant to win hearts and minds in the right for Herzog's entry into the coalition. "Netanyahu is saying he's done everything to bring a right-wing party in the government, and only after he failed he had no choice but to turn to Herzog," a source in the party said.

With negotiations over a unity government at their peak, Netanyahu and Herzog issued corresponding statements on Tuesday welcoming Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah al-Sissi's call to renew the peace process.

Sources close to Netanyahu and Herzog said that Sissi didn't coordinate his speech with them, and that they didn't know of it in advance. 

On Sunday, Herzog said a unity government would pose an alleged "rare" opportunity to improve its relations with the region. He offered no details about said opportunity, but he stressed that if it’s okay for his party to negotiate with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, then it’s also okay for it to negotiate with Netanyahu.