By Jonathan Benedek/TPS
Jerusalem (TPS) – Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Opposition leader and Zionist Union faction Chairman Isaac Herzog met on Sunday night to discuss the prospects of establishing a national unity government, according to a report by Israel’s Channel 2.
The meeting took place despite fierce backlash from members of Herzog’s Labor party and his political allies, who consider joining Netanyahu a betrayal, and recent polls showing Herzog’s support plummeting.
“I am not deterred by polls like these, which are about momentary fads,” said Herzog in comments to a closed conference aired on Tuesday by Israel Army Radio. “When checking them thoroughly, we can see that most of the public does not know what they mean, and still gives 30% support to the move, most of whom are from the bloc that I lead rather than the bloc on the right.”
Herzog explained last week that he will join Netanyahu’s coalition if he is given the “mandate” to deal with serious issues facing the country, including “to separate from the Palestinians” and “to make the United States and Europe our allies again.”
MK Shelly Yachimovich, a former Labor party head, is one of several of party members to strenuously object to a national unity government.
“This was an offer that should have been rejected with contempt long ago,” Yachimovich wrote last week in her weekly newsletter.
“It wouldn’t be a unity government,” she added. “It would be a right-wing government in every way, with Labor creeping in without conditions to get portfolios and positions.”
Opposition to a national unity government has also been pushed by members of the Coalition, including Likud MK Yoav Kisch.
“A narrow government that is faithful to settlements is better than a broad government lacking in values,” said Kisch last Thursday, implicitly claiming that a unity government with the Zionist Union would undermine the government’s ability to continue construction in Judea and Samaria.
“The very act of negotiating with Netanyahu is political profiteering and job trading. It’s disgraceful and constitutes a betrayal of the public trust,” Labor party MK Stav Shafir commented on Sunday.
Herzog dismissed such objections during a private meeting with Labor party activists in a recording aired Sunday on Israel’s Channel 10 news.
“If we can speak with Mahmoud Abbas, we can speak with Netanyahu,” Herzog said, referring to the president of the Palestinian Authority.