Herzog: Labor Party Must Stop Giving Israelis the Feeling It Always Loves Arabs

Opposition leader tells party activists that Yair Lapid is taking Labor's votes in opinion polls and Labor must prove they can change the status quo without abandoning security.

Isaac Herzog, April 18, 2016.
Ilan Assayag

Opposition head MK Isaac Herzog said Tuesday in Ashkelon that in order to attract more voters there is a need to shake the feeling that Labor Party members are “Arab-lovers.”

Herzog, the Labor Party chairman, was speaking at a toast for party activists in Ashkelon, where he discussed the changes in Israeli society and the need for the party to change in order to attract voters.

“It’s true – Lapid is taking votes from us today in the opinion polls,” Herzog said, referring to Yesh Atid chairman MK Yair Lapid. “Among other things, he is moving to the right of us in the national consciousness and that requires a discussion of what that says. After all, we won’t be right-wing, but what does it say? Where do we enter the hearts of the public, so they’ll believe that we have not only experience but the ability to change the situation in the country without abandoning security?”

Herzog said he finds a feeling “in endless encounters with the Israeli public that we are always Arab lovers. It’s complicated, but that’s part of the issue, that’s part of the challenge. We are a party that always knew how to be a ruling party.”

Herzog said one of the reasons that he had “put out feelers to see if it was possible to link Israel’s two large national movements into a political turnover” stemmed from the need for “a large Israeli center.” Herzog said that in his opinion the gap between him and Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon is relatively small. 

Herzog verbally attacked members of his party, saying that they do not appreciate the achievement of the party under his leadership in the last elections. “Since 1992 we haven’t had such great political power, 24 Knesset seats are a lotSo what do we get? Whining. Whining in the party and in the movement and MKs who hand us out grades all day long. Instead of saying ‘look what wonderful work our faction is doing’”

As for the criminal investigation against him, Herzog said: “These are not easy days. I am completely calm. And I know that I have to go through this like any other citizen.” Herzog added, however, that the difference between him and an ordinary citizen is “that a citizen doesn’t get headlines, and when I go through it, it serves all kinds of factors and interests.” 

Herzog leveled veiled criticism at Zionist Union members saying: “That is why a party should stand behind the leader, without blinking."

Herzog’s bureau responded: “We are not afraid to deal with problems that we discover about the public’s attitude toward the Labor Party and Zionist Union. One of the problems is the mistaken and dangerous feeling that they are trying to label us with that we take the needs of the Palestinians into consideration before those of the State of Israel and its citizens. This is clearly a mistaken feeling, but it increases in magnitude among groups that did not know us in the last elections and it’s important for us to reach them in the process of a deep and broad campaign that we are doing with our ‘expanding circles’ plan, the length and breadth of the State of Israel and the communities that live here.”