Netanyahu, Herzog Deny Report of Renewed Talks for Israeli Unity Government

Members of Zionist Union, which Herzog chairs, criticized him for the reported move.

Opposition leader Isaac Herzog and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
Marc Israel Salem and Moti Milrod

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and opposition chairman MK Isaac Herzog have renewed talks over Herzog’s party, Zionist Union, joining the coalition, Channel 2 news reported Saturday night. According to the report, which was denied by both politicians' offices, the two met last week at Netanyahu’s home in Caesarea.

Members of Zionist Union criticized Herzog for the reported move. “There’s no chance that Zionist Union will join the government," fellow Zionist Union MK Amir Peretz said, adding that he believed the report was spin intended to benefit MK Yair Lapid (Yesh Atid). A statement was subsequently issued in which Peretz stated that Herzog told him he had not met with Netanyahu and that “Peretz chooses to believe him in this matter.”

MK Erel Margalit (Zionist Union) said that the party “cannot go back to the subversive attempts to lend a hand to the success of Netanyahu and his failed government. Netanyahu must not be rescued but must be replaced as soon as possible. Just as such efforts were stymied in the past, we will stop the attempt to save Netanyahu this time as well.”

Until May of this year, Netanyahu and Herzog were holding talks over bringing Zionist Union into the coalition, but they did not bear fruit. While Herzog said the negotiations ended when Netanyahu brought the right-wing Yisrael Beiteinu into the coalition, Netanyahu did not rule out the possibility that contacts with Zionist Union would be renewed.

About three weeks ago, in a conversation with political correspondents, Netanyahu said he still wanted to bring Zionist Union into the coalition in light of “diplomatic threats and opportunities” before Israel. According to Netanyahu, that is the reason he is still holding the Foreign Ministry portfolio.

Herzog recently achieved a victory at the Zionist Union Central Committee when it accepted his position to hold primaries in July 2017 and not earlier, as Hezrog’s adversaries, Margalit and MK Shelly Yacimovich wanted.