This week’s deal on Iran’s nuclear program is turning into the perfect excuse for both Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and opposition leader Isaac Herzog to realize their political goals.
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The talks the two have been holding about forming a unity government began even before the agreement was signed (Jonathan Lis, Haaretz, July 15). But the nuclear deal, which Netanyahu and his envoys are marketing in Israel as the modern-day equivalent of the Munich accord, is also liable to serve as an excuse for overlooking all the evils of Netanyahu’s terms in office – the deepening of the occupation, the rejection of peace and the destruction of democracy at home.
The opposition’s response to the agreement, which ignores the opportunities it presents, empties the very concept of a democratic opposition of all meaning. “The agreement that was signed is a bad agreement that endangers our security interests,” declared the “leader of the opposition,” following closely in Netanyahu’s footsteps. He even volunteered to go to Washington to assist in obtaining security compensation for Israel, as if he were a high-ranking representative of the government.
And Herzog was outdone by Yesh Atid chairman Yair Lapid, who attacked the agreement viciously and even compared Netanyahu to Golda Meir after the 1973 Yom Kippur War. Lapid, who is not a desired partner for this government and won’t enjoy its perks, is continuing to lurch right in an effort to rectify his poor showing in the last election. After having launched an unbridled attack on the Breaking the Silence organization, Lapid has now adopted Netanyahu’s tactics of intimidation and exaggeration regarding the agreement with Iran.
Lapid can be dismissed as just another cynical politician trying to attract attention. But Herzog, who was elected to pose an alternative to Netanyahu’s rule, is now looking like someone who misled his voters. His faction has failed again and again to stand up against the government’s destructive moves. Actions such as its members’ flight from a vote to remove restrictions on Israeli Arab marriages with foreign spouses raise the question of how exactly this opposition differs from the extreme-right government. Herzog’s vehement denials of any intention to join Netanyahu’s government sound unconvincing when the gap between their positions has been erased.
The election proved that a large portion of the public opposes Netanyahu’s path. Herzog must represent those who elected him rather than use their votes to pave the way for the continuation of the prime minister’s harmful rule.