Herzog declares coalition talks ‘over and done’
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Herzog declares coalition talks ‘over and done’

Opposition leader rejects Netanyahu’s offer of Foreign Ministry, says PM ‘beholden to the most extremist elements’

Stuart Winer is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

Leader of opposition Zionist Union MK Isaac Herzog responding to talks about a joint government during a press conference in Jerusalem, May 18, 2016. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Leader of opposition Zionist Union MK Isaac Herzog responding to talks about a joint government during a press conference in Jerusalem, May 18, 2016. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Opposition leader Isaac Herzog declared Monday that negotiations with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to join the government are over, openly rejecting overtures from the premier indicating there was still room for Herzog’s Zionist Union in the coalition.

In a series of tweets, Herzog said he was reiterating the same reply that he had already given to prime minister.

“Netanyahu, in response to your approaches in the last few days to renew negotiations toward joining your government, I want to publicly clarify what I said to you in person: The door is closed,” Herzog wrote.

“This chapter is over and done. You are beholden to the most extremist elements and we will fight you and them,” he added, alluding to Netanyahu’s decision to bring into the coalition the hard-line Yisrael Beytenu party and its outspoken leader, Avigdor Liberman.

The opposition head has faced fierce criticism from within his faction over the talks with Netanyahu and their outcome, which analysts have described as a humiliation for Herzog’s Zionist Union faction, and several MKs have called for his ouster as negotiations fell apart last week.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks to reporters at a meeting of his Likud faction at the Knesset on May 23, 2016 (screen capture: Knesset Channel)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks to reporters at a meeting of his Likud faction at the Knesset on May 23, 2016 (screen capture: Knesset Channel)

Last week Netanyahu shook up Israeli politics by announcing that he was closing in on a deal with Yisrael Beytenu, under which Liberman would be named defense minister. The announcement prompted the resignation of Moshe Ya’alon from the post.

Herzog then angrily declared an end to talks, telling the prime minister he needed to choose between him and Liberman. But on Sunday, Netanyahu told ministers that he would not appoint anyone to fill the position of foreign minister, and would instead hold it as an inducement for Herzog to join the government.

Netanyahu spokesman David Keyes confirmed to The Times of Israel that Netanyahu would remain acting foreign minister.

Negotiations between Yisrael Beytenu and Likud are ongoing and were expected to conclude on Monday.

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