Netanyahu, Herzog Swapped Draft Agreements in Secret Talks for Joint Government

The sides had hoped to reach a deal by the end of May, but then the talks froze after Herzog came under investigation last month.

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

Up until the announcement of the investigation into opposition leader Isaac Herzog's primary finances, he and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had been in touch about Zionist Union joining the governing coalition for many long months.

The talks had grown more intense in the past few weeks. As reported by Haaretz two weeks ago, both sides had intended to reach an agreement during the spring Knesset break and present a unity government by the start of the summer legislative session, at the end of May.

Gaps still remained over various issues: In the diplomatic realm, and also with respect to Herzog's demand to remove Habayit Hayehudi from the coalition, which Netanyahu rejected.

Herzog's representative to the talks, which are now frozen following the criminal examination opened against the Zionist Union leader, was and in effect remains, Yossi Kucik, the onetime director-general of the Prime Minister's Office when Ehud Barak was premier from 1999-2001. Herzog was cabinet secretary at the time.

Kucik, currently chairman of the Yashir Insurance group and head of a consultancy firm, was in charge of the secret contacts on Herzog's part, with Netanyahu's representatives, among them, cabinet minister Yariv Levine.

In recent weeks they were even exchanging drafts of a possible coalition agreement.

Herzog has refused to confirm or deny this. His associates say: "There was some running around on the part of many people in the past year, who tried to advance contacts for unity, and it didn't ripen into anything substantial."

The full article will appear in Friday's Haaretz.