After Zionist Union chairman MK Isaac Herzog had been careful to wrap his words in a certain amount of ambiguity, and in the wake of serious political assessments about the growing feasibility of a unity government, Herzog announced Saturday that Zionist Union, including Labor, was en route to the opposition. “I said upon learning of the election results that we were heading for the opposition. This is not a default choice, it’s a preference,” he said at a cultural event in Tel Aviv.
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Herzog is dissembling when he accuses the media, which is fed by the political world, of spreading baseless rumors about the willingness of Labor’s leaders to enter a fourth Netanyahu coalition, even at the price of jettisoning Zionist Union co-leader MK Tzipi Livni. In addition, his declaration comes after several days of head-butting in the negotiations between Netanyahu and his “natural partners,” the ultra-Orthodox factions as well as Habayit Hayehudi and Yisrael Beiteinu’s Avigdor Lieberman – amid signs of a return to the idea of a narrow right-wing-Haredi government. But even if Herzog’s declaration comes at this belated stage, it is still a welcome development that he has taken up the flag of opposition and thus will represent the camp that elected him.
The morally unacceptable idea of legitimizing another nationalist, settlement government that would promote anti-democratic and racist laws against Arabs and foreigners is joined by a practical consideration. To create a true alternative to Netanyahu’s government, one cannot be part of it. Political history proves that the premiership is conquered by candidates from the opposition only. The status of Yesh Atid’s Yair Lapid and Kadima’s Tzipi Livni, who were a part of Netanyahu’s previous government, was eroded in the last election because they were part of a government led by a man whose positions they opposed, until he fired them.
There are great concerns on the eve of the establishment of the next government: foreign relations, first and foremost with the United States, are at an all-time low. The courts and the rule of law are also in danger as a result of anti-democratic initiatives to restrict them. The injustices of the occupation are fading from Israeli consciousness and the delicate ties between Jews and Arabs are torn apart by cynical and irresponsible politicians who fan the flames at every opportunity.
If Zionist Union or the Labor Party joins the coalition, it will not be able to address these concerns in any essential way; rather, the ideological strength of the party will only weaken. Herzog’s main goal must be to establish as broad an opposition as possible, which will be based on the principles of democracy, negating racism and the struggle for peace. The unworthy Israeli government must be changed, not perpetuated.