Zionist Union MK Yacimovich Blasts Herzog for 'Playing Into Netanyahu's Hands'

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Labor chairman Isaac Herzog and former leader Shelly Yacimovich at the party convention, December 14, 2014.Credit: Tomer Appelbaum

Zionist Union MK Shelly Yacimovich criticized on Sunday comments that party leader Isaac Herzog made to French President Francois Hollande over the weekend, according to which "now is not the time for a Palestinian state." Yacimovich said that Herzog's remarks were wrong, that they constitute a wink to the right and that they contradict the Labor Party's values regarding the two-state solution.

"Facing a coalition that is being dragged by the hair by [Habayit Hayehudi MK Bezalel] Smotrich and [Likud MK Oren] Hazan, Labor must present an alternative of political dialogue and not give it up under the common right-wing claim that there's no one to speak with," she said in a statement to the press.

"While Abu Mazen isn’t a lover of Zion, this might be the last opportunity to speak with a secular and pragmatic Palestinian president," she said, referring to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. "We must not miss such an opportunity and play into the hands of [Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu. The opposition must present a clear and unapologetic alternative."

In a meeting with Hollande in Paris over the weekend, Herzog presented his plan to separate from the Palestinians, and said that he is "a huge advocate of the two-state vision, but we have to be realistic. It can't take place now. The hatred and incitement among the Palestinians is too great, the animosity between the peoples and the inability of the leaders prevent it."

This was the second time in recent days that Yacimovich publicly criticized the head of her party about his conduct in facing the government at a time of terror. Last week, Yacimovich said in an interview with the Knesset channel that "attacking Netanyahu from the right is a serious mistake" and that "it's not credible and it's not right."

Yacimovich faced similar criticism herself when she headed the Labor Party. In a meeting she held with the French president in July 2012, she presented terms for a Palestinian state that were similar to the ones presented at the time by Netanyahu. She demanded, among other things, recognition of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state, a territorial compromise and negotiations without preconditions – also without freezing construction in the settlements.

In response to Yachimovich's comments, Herzog said on Israel Radio that "the criticism is fundamentally wrong. The opposition is battling it out in the committees, in the plenum, in public. I'm presenting an alternative all the time, if we'll all know to present it we'll also replace the existing regime. I relate to reality, I'm not leering rightwards."

 "I've said that I aim to reach the fulfillment of the two-states vision, I want to negotiate with the Palestinians, but in the current reality, in which Netanyahu is leading and Abu Mazen is leading, it's not possible to fulfill the two-state vision," Herzog said.

"The fact that Shelly is giving out interviews doesn’t mean that that's the position of the party members. It's the position of some of them, and it's their right to voice it, but at the end of the day many in the party are saying 'listen, we need to understand that the reality is changing and we need to speak the truth to the public.' As long as I'm leading this camp, I'm also telling it the truth," he added.