Netanyahu to Herzog: 'I Haven't Closed the Door; I Call on You Not to Miss This Opportunity'

In first Knesset summer session, the prime minister says he wants as broad a coalition as possible.

Prime Minister Netanyahu addresses the Knesset at its first summer session, May 23, 2016.
Emil Salman

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the Knesset at its first summer session yesterday that he was working to expand his government because he is “interested in as broad a coalition as possible,” and later called on opposition leader Isaac Herzog (Zionist Union) not to miss “an opportunity to unite the nation.”

Immediately after Netanyahu’s opening address, Herzog took the podium to warn against the extreme right seizing control of the government.

“I opened the door to Benjamin Netanyahu, my bitter political rival, to offer a courageous hand toward a joint struggle against the forces threatening the nation from within and without,” Herzog said, referring to efforts over the past several weeks to bring Zionist Union into the coalition. “Unfortunately, Netanyahu slammed the door on changing the future. He slammed the door on regional leaders. He slammed the door on the leaders of Europe and the United States, and has become a hostage to a dangerous and radical political group that will lead him, and us, toward a national disaster.”

“I’m saddened, Mr. Netanyahu, that you’ve chosen to zigzag once again,” Herzog continued. “I’m saddened that you’re the one who slammed the door. I’m saddened that you’ve chosen to abandon the good of the state for your narrow political interest. Twitter may remember you fondly, but history won’t.”

Netanyahu surprised the MKs by returning to the podium to address Herzog: “I haven’t closed the door,” he said. “The door is open. There’s an opportunity to unite the nation. There’s an opportunity to advance national reconciliation. I call on you and you colleagues not to miss this opportunity and join the national effort toward these objectives.”

During his initial remarks, Netanyahu mentioned Zionist visionary Theodor Herzl, whose birthday was being marked by the Knesset, albeit several days late.

“Zionism triumphed,” Netanyahu said. “Herzl sketched the outline of the founding of the State of Israel, which is an international success story.

“Herzl operated in a hostile environment and internalized the danger of anti-Semitism as no one else had,” he said. “He pointed to the disaster facing the Jews if they didn’t establish their own state. Herzl envisioned the destruction of European Jewry with clinical precision, decades before it occurred. Herzl died too soon, and the state was established too late. Imagine what additional strength Zionism would have if the six million murdered in the Holocaust and their descendants would be here?”

Netanyahu also said that he met with the French Prime Minister Manuel Valls yesterday, and stressed him that “our government wants peace, but through direct negotiations and without international diktats.” Netanyahu continued, “The door is open to anyone who wants to assist. We have no other country and we have to protect it. We are proud of it, and I’m sure our children will also be proud of it.”

He added, “There’s a lot more to do and to fix, but there’s no justification for the constant complaining in certain circles.”