Haaretz WikiLeaks Exclusive / Full Version of Herzog's Comments on Labor Rival

Top Labor MK blasted leaked U.S. cable quoting him as calling former party head Amir Peretz 'aggressive, Moroccan.'

The full version of a WikiLeaks document published by Haaretz on Wednesday shows that Labor leadership candidate Isaac Herzog indeed described rival Amir Peretz as "inexperienced, aggressive and Moroccan," despite Herzog's later denial of the report.

The cable documents a meeting between then-MK Herzog and a senior American diplomat, in which Herzog took his comments considerably beyond political correctness.

Social Affairs Minister Isaac Herzog
Tess Scheflan

While allowing that the main damage to Labor's ratings in the polls was caused by the ascendance of Kadima, he said damage was also done by "the public perception of Peretz as inexperienced, aggressive and Moroccan."

Herzog blasted the Haaretz report in a Wednesday interview with Israel Radio, saying "anyone who knows me, who knows my world views, who has seen my actions knows that there is no situation under which I would say these things or even think such things about any person or public figure."

The MK said the cable was "distorted", claiming that the person responsible for writing the document had misunderstood his intent. He also lashed out at Haaretz for publishing the cable, recently exposed by Wikileaks, and for not requesting a response before publishing the damning information.

According to the leaked cable, Herzog said he was pleased with Labor's "excellent" Knesset list, which he described as a team that "includes Ashkenazi members [of European descent] to balance out Peretz's Sephardi [Middle Eastern] background."

The publishing of the cable on Wednesday prompted outraged Labor MK Eitan Cabel to say that "Herzog is not a qualified candidate to head the Labor Party." Herzog is one of the Labor members who are hoping to take over the party after Defense Minister Ehud Barak left the party to form his new Atzmaut Party.

Herzog responded to Cabel's comments, saying "there are people who are trying to bury me without even calling to see if the allegations are true."

In another response to the cable, Labor MK Shelly Yachimovich said that Herzog's reported comments had "more than a hint of racism, and I hope the quote is incorrect."

"Since the issue has been raised, I urge a dispelling of racist elements from Israeli political speech, and a move toward judging political personalities by their actions and stances," Yachimovich said.