I’ve never deluded myself in thinking that Isaac Herzog is a great ideologue, willing to sacrifice himself for his principles. I remember him talking with disdain about Shimon Peres’s “crawling” to the Sharon government as it carried out the Gaza disengagement, before joining the same government a short while later. I remember him giving dazzling speeches denouncing Ehud Barak’s leadership, only to subsequently support him in the 2007 race for the Labor Party leadership. I remember his “opposition” to Barak and Labor’s joining the Netanyahu coalition in 2009, before hurrying to catch a seat for himself in the front row.
- What's behind Netanyahu's pursuit of the Labor Party? Fear, loathing and a restive army
- Herzog’s conditions for joining coalition posted briefly on Facebook
- Bibi see, Bibi do: Netanyahu's political mimicry of Bennett
Despite all that, I always considered him to be a relatively reasonable politician. Not a hedonist, not corrupt, very intelligent and mainly, so desirous of pleasing everyone that he would never cross red lines. Anyone who had any contact with him – journalists, politicians, social activists – was an object of his ingratiating onslaught.
So how did the Bougie we knew become such a political rag, with which Netanyahu is bringing the whole center-left camp to its knees? How does he suddenly not care what hundreds of thousands of his voters think of him?
Herzog is less annoying than some of his party colleagues. Ostensibly, they all oppose him and hold him in contempt, telling him they won’t support his move. In practise, if Netanyahu were to even modestly improve his insulting offer, the entire “rejection front” would collapse. You then might find Shelly Yacimovich among the supporters, as well as Eitan Cabel, who even in these circumstances can hardly express meaningful opposition to the move.
Another relatively unknown hero, labeled by everyone a decent and down-to-earth person, is Avi Nissenkorn, head of the Histadrut labor federation. He has put his full weight behind this move, using the dramatic rationale that he’s worried that holding primaries in the Labor Party at this juncture would damage his own chances of winning the elections for head of the Histadrut.
What would constitute a small improvement in Netanyahu’s offer? Here are a few “tie-breakers,” according to the party of “we have no chance of replacing Bibi.” Let’s assume that Netanyahu would give the Zionist Union the Justice Ministry instead of the economy and industry portfolios (does anyone really believe that this would be sufficient cause for Bennett to leave the government?). Wow, say party members, that would be a great change.
But wait a minute! There’s another potential tie-breaker. Let’s assume that Netanyahu would mutter something about the plans for developing the offshore natural gas fields – “we’ll set up a committee that would reexamine the issue, with a Labor Party member as one of its members.” What an achievement! Now there’s something we can talk about! The “chasm” between the two parties would start to dissolve.
That’s not all. There’s a third tie-breaker. Let’s fantasize that King Netanyahu would be willing to find within himself a tiny shred of compassion and formulate some convoluted formula regarding the diplomatic process, with a tiny hint at a possible construction freeze in the settlements – “I repeat my call to Abu Mazen to resume negotiations, and I’m willing to temporarily restrain construction in parts of Judea and Samaria in order to facilitate a conducive atmosphere during the negotiations” – this would lead to a truly united government: partnership in leading the country, a hand on the helm. One doesn’t need much more and everyone instantly becomes a soldier in Netanyahu’s duplicitous army.
In truth, this is really depressing. Yacimovich disdainfully rejected an offer to join Netanyahu’s government, along with Barak. In the 2013 elections she declared that under no circumstances would she enter the Netanyahu coalition, and despite all the temptations she stuck to her word. So why in the name of God now, of all times, while enjoying her highest-ever political prestige after passing a law restricting the wages of senior officials and successfully blocking Netanyahu’s natural gas plans, even Yacimovich is willing to participate in this sham?
Cabel courageously left the Olmert government in protest against the management of the Second Lebanon War. How deep must his despair at the possibility of changing governments be for him to take part in this revolting maneuver? What abyss of insecurity must they be in to make them wave a flag of surrender for nothing?