By Jonathan Benedek/TPS
Jerusalem (TPS) – The Israeli Labor party is showing signs of internal fracture on Thursday as several party members called on chairman Isaac Herzog to resign following a failed maneuver to join Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government the previous day – a move that ended with the appointment of right-wing Yisrael Beiteinu chairman Avigdor Liberman as incoming defense minister.
Herzog’s public negotiations with Netanyahu drew the ire of many MKs – most notably of previous party leader MK Shelly Yachimovich – in the historically left-wing Labor party, which governed the country from its founding in 1948 until 1977.
“Now that Netanyahu and Liberman are shaking hands, does Herzog realize what he has done to his party and to our values?” wrote Yachimovich on her Facebook account. “Herzog is responsible for this embarrassing farce. With him the whole Zionist Union party has suffered a major blow,” she charged, referring to the joint list created by Labor and MK Tzipi Livni’s Hatnuah party.
A faction of Labor MKs galvanized by Yachimovich – including Stav Shaffir, Erel Margelit, and Mickey Rosenthal – called for Herzog to resign.
Herzog fired back in a press conference Wednesday night boasting of sweeping oral commitments he had received from Netanyahu – which Herzog rejected, he said, because Netanyahu refused to commit them to writing – and blasting Yachimovich for sabotaging him.
“She rudely and violently undermined [me], and was ready to sacrifice a bold, groundbreaking political maneuver backed by powerful international forces,” Herzog said, alluding to an international initiative to forge a regional peace as expressed in a Tuesday speech by Egyptian President Abdel Fateh al-Sisi.
Herzog blamed Yachimovich’s “extreme, radical leftist views” for pushing away public support from the party. “She will have signed on the bottom of Liberman’s appointment as defense minister and she is responsible for the consequences of his appointment.”
As the war of words threatens to escalate into a party schism – a popular Israeli satire show featured Yachimovich beheading Herzog ISIS-style on Thursday night – some voices in the Labor party and the Zionist Union attempted to ease the tensions by shifting criticism toward Netanyahu.
“History will not forgive Netanyahu for the damage he is doing to Israel, and our children will not forgive us if we engage now in personal matters and infighting,” wrote Zionist Union MK Tzipi Livni in a Facebook post. “This is exactly the time to go into battle together over the identity and future of Israel.”
“Our moral duty now, facing the insanity taking place, is to fight for our positions, not to flinch and not be victims and create for ourselves a strong and determined opposing camp.”
Labor MK Nachman Shai also defended Herzog and directed his criticism at the Israeli prime minister.
“Herzog is not a sucker,” said Shai. “He conducted responsible negotiations that led the prime minister to a series of concessions.”
Nonetheless, Shai also directed some criticism at the party chairman.
“Herzog made a mistake by attacking Shelly Yachimovich last night,” argued Shai. “He should have focused on attacking the bad government that we have here.”TPS / Tazpit News Agency