Opposition Leader Herzog: Israelis Are Fed Up With Radical Left

Both extreme right and extreme left 'will lead us to Israstine – a Jewish-Arab binational state,' Zionist Union leader says; Lapid: a diplomatic blockade is slowly closing in on us.

Herzog and Lapid at the Knesset, February 2016.
Olivier Fittosi

Opposition leader Isaac Herzog took the far left to task on Saturday, saying that the public was tired of those only holding Israel accountable for the situation.

"The public is sick of hearing the extreme left accusing Israel for the situation without offering solutions that would maintain Israel's security," Herzog, the head of the Zionist Union faction said at a public forum in Ramat Gan, a suburb of Tel Aviv.

Herzog also pointed a finger at the extreme right, in an apparent reference to resistance on the right to any move that would reconfigure Jerusalem's boundaries, "forcing an inevitable annexation of large numbers of Palestinians in Jerusalem and Judea and Samaria," he said, using the biblical name for the West Bank.

"The extreme right and the extreme left babble slogans that will lead us to Israstine - a Jewish-Arab state between the Jordan [River] and the [Mediterranean] Sea," the Zionist Union leader added.

In January, Herzog, who recently came in for criticism for suggesting that a two-state solution to the conflict with the Palestinians cannot be implemented at the current time, proposed a plan that would sever some Arab neighborhoods from Jerusalem and complete the security fence in the West Bank in a way that would include all the settlement blocs on the Israeli side. At his appearance on Saturday, he said this is the only way to maintain Israel as a "Jewish, secure and democratic" country.

In comments by opposition lawmakers elsewhere on Saturday, Yair Lapid criticized the government's handling of foreign policy, saying "that's not how a country behaves."

Speaking in Kfar Sava, Yesh Atid party leader cited as purported examples of recent failings the fact that Israel and the United States have not come to agreement on the terms of a renewed American aid package, as well as what he said were deteriorating relations with the European Union.

"A diplomatic blockade is slowly closing in on us and the government says everything is excellent. Not everything is excellent," Lapid said.

At a separate event in Holon, Lapid's party colleague Jacob Perry said that the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement, is picking up steam around the world, but he claimed Netanyahu, who is also acting foreign minister, was doing nothing about it.

"They're trying to label Israel as an apartheid state and instead of diverting budgets to the Foreign Ministry and appointing a full-time minister, the prime minister is busy with political survival," Perry said, adding that if Israel were to initiate "even a small step," most of the world would support it.

Also on Saturday, Tel Aviv mayor Ron Huldai, who has been cited as a possible challenger to Herzog as the head of the Labor Party, said "something very special" would have to happen to make him get into national politics. He also opposed the prospect that Netanyahu could be deposed as head of the Likud while his party remained in power. "The whole Likud needs to be replaced, not just the person at its helm," he said.

As long as Israel is ruling over another people, "we will not manage to be perceived in the world as a democracy," he added.

"I am not prepared to let the Palestinians decide my fate and turn the State of Israel into a binational state, therefore I would have started with confidence-building measures demonstrating such an intention: creating a port in Gaza, improving the living conditions of the Palestinians, strengthening their economy and also freezing [settlement] construction beyond the Green Line."

For his part, a member of the cabinet, Environmental Protection Minister Avi Gabbay of the Kulanu party, vowed that the party would remain independent. Party leader "Moshe Kahlon has already said that anyone who wants to join us will do so only around our socioeconomic agenda," he said.