Zionist Union Must Help Carry the Stretcher of Israel’s National Interests

Isaac Herzog has a chance prove that although he was helped by outsiders during the election campaign, he doesn't do the bidding of Obama and other hostile elements.

Israel Harel
Israel Harel
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Israeli soldiers of the Caracal battalion carry their comrade on a stretcher during a 20-kilometre march.
Israeli soldiers of the Caracal battalion carry their comrade on a stretcher during a 20-kilometre march.Credit: Reuters
Israel Harel
Israel Harel

Isaac Herzog heads a large camp, many of whose members are agonizing over the question “where did we go wrong?” One answer: receiving assistance from foreign entities hostile to Israel.

Most Israelis believe that such assistance is something that should not be done. It’s hard to overestimate the anger aroused among many Israelis by such assistance — to which heads of state were also enlisted and rallied — and its impact on the election. If this feeling is not the subject of a sincere effort by Herzog’s camp to dispel, it will not fade quickly.

The crude and continuous assault by U.S. President Barack Obama on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu might end badly for Israel in general, including the “where did we go wrong” folks. Herzog, who during the campaign said he wouldn’t hesitate to present the rightness of Israel’s positions to the whole world, now has a chance to prove that although he was helped by outsiders in the run-up to the election, he does not do the bidding of Obama and other hostile elements.

My political credo, he must say to Obama, is two states for two peoples. But even if I had won the election, I would not forgo many of the principles that my opponent, Benjamin Netanyahu, insists on, and to which I was also committed during the campaign: no division of Jerusalem, an Israeli presence in the Jordan Valley, settlement blocs under Israeli sovereignty, the Palestinians’ complete renunciation, including in principle, of a right of return, and the signing of a declaration ending the conflict.

But all this — especially forgoing a right of return, ending the conflict, and the settlement blocs — the Palestinians are unwilling and unable to concede. My political partner Tzipi Livni, who has held endless talks with them, will attest to this.

Isaac Herzog during TheMarker's annual conference, March 11, 2015.Credit: AFP

Herzog must also say: Netanyahu is wrong in many areas concerning both political and social affairs. His speech to Congress, despite your opposition, should not have been given. But Netanyahu’s arguments — including his lack of faith that one day the Palestinians will be ready for peace — are not reasons to abandon Israel at the UN Security Council, or for any other penalty that would harm our basic national security.

Israel is not only Netanyahu and the right-wing government he is about to establish, Herzog must say. Israel is also the peace camp, which I lead. The existence of a Jewish and democratic Israel is dear to many Americans, including most Democrats, whose leader you are.

Moreover, Mr. President, I am also uncomfortable with the agreement you are about to sign with the Iranians. Most Israelis, even the most ardent supporters of the United States, are worried about your policies in the Middle East in general and your lenient approach to Iran in particular.

That’s what Herzog should say. But I’m not challenging him in order to prove that he’s not who he professes to be. On the contrary, despite the significance of assistance by anti-Israeli forces during the election campaign, I believe that national security is at the top of his agenda. Now is the time for him to prove it.

Even if Netanyahu were responsible — and he isn’t — for Obama’s punishment campaign, we would all suffer from it. Therefore all camps must rally, whoever is to blame, to stop it. Herzog’s camp must overcome the “anyone but Bibi” emotions and help carry the stretcher of general national interests.

Thus an atmosphere of national reconciliation can be created to let Zionist Union join the coalition and let Livni return to handling the talks with the Palestinians. Who knows, maybe what failed in the days of Yitzhak Rabin, Shimon Peres, Ehud Barak, Ariel Sharon and Ehud Olmert will materialize in a joint government of Netanyahu and Herzog.



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