Option of Government Without Netanyahu Is Alive and Kicking, Israeli Opposition Leader Says

Isaac Herzog says he expects government to fall apart; Netnayahu's coalition whip: Main problem is journalists who think they are foundation of democracy'

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu chairs a cabinet meeting in Jerusalem on March 26, 2017.
GALI TIBBON/AFP

The leader of Israel's opposition thinks the current government will not finish out the year and claimed that he could form an alternative government.

Speaking at public forum in Be’er Sheva on Saturday, Zionist Union chairman MK Isaac Herzog said that two weeks ago, at the height of the coalition crisis between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon over the new public broadcasting corporation, he had managed to assemble an alternative government that could have replaced the current one headed by Netanyahu.

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Although Netanyahu and Kahlon reached agreement on Thursday over the future of the broadcasting corporation, Herzog predicted on Saturday that the current coalition would not last. “When Netanyahu was in China, an alternative coalition was put together,” he said, referring to the period two weeks ago when the prime minister was on a state visit.

“The option of an alternative government is alive and kicking and breathing and will wait for the next opportunity that opens up in the very near future. What’s happening now is clear. Netanyahu’s internal coalition is significantly split. He is losing his ability to maintain the coalition and anyone who knows Israeli politics knows that it’s on the way to breaking up.”

Within the next year the coalition will disperse and new elections held, Herzog predicted. “This coalition is facing a breakup. The impulses and tensions are huge and there is a basic lack of confidence in the prime minister.”

The agreement reached between Netanyahu and Kahlon calls for dismantling the new corporation’s news division and transferring responsibility for its news programming to a separate company. The corporation has not yet gone on the air.

Meanwhile, Economy Minister Eli Cohen commented on the deal between Netanyahu and Kahlon, who heads his Kulanu party, saying the new broadcaster "doesn’t interest the people of Israel or our voters.

"We want to deal with stuff that is important to the public," Cohen said at the same event.

For his part, however, David Bitan of Netanyahu’s Likud party, who is the coalition whip and is considered by some to be a media surrogate for the prime minister, took the employees of the new public broadcasting corporation to task, saying “the main problem is that senior journalists in the State of Israel think they are the foundation of democracy and that they are indispensable.”

Speaking at a community forum in Ramat Yishai in the north, Bitan added: “This matter is more serious when young journalist from the [public broadcasting] corporation, who haven’t produced a single report yet, think they [represent] the public.”