In a fiery speech at the start of the Knesset winter session on Monday, opposition leader Isaac Herzog called on central, left- and right-wing parties to topple Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for failing to achieve security, secure a peace deal with the Palestinians, resolve the economic crisis, and for single-handedly harming Israel’s diplomatic ties with the United States.
“There is no peace, no security, no economy, no housing, no income, no hope. There is no reason to leave Netanyahu in power,” Herzog said.
With regard to Netanyahu’s chilly ties with the US, Herzog charged: “You’re the man personally responsible for the destruction of relations with the US. You are the man who hurt and insulted President Obama and his administration repeatedly.”
The opposition leader went on to criticize Netanyahu for the instability in East Jerusalem, and accused him of a “de facto division” of the capital.
“You promised security, Mr. Prime Minister, and see how Jerusalem is burning, and you are not taking any substantial moves to prevent this, but are only adding to it — through your indecision, you are causing a de facto division of our dear and beloved Jerusalem.”
Herzog also issued a long denunciation of the prime minister’s failure to cut the cost of living in Israel, slammed the budget, and lambasted him for appointing Finance Minister Yair Lapid, “a political novice without professional experience, and using him as a human shield.”
“Unfortunately, there are those seeking to turn Israel into a state whose citizens are begging for bread, a state which is bankrupt and begging, and the man who is doing this is none other than the prime minister, who is granting the citizens of Israel a badge of shame in the form of the [annual] budget,” Herzog said.
The parliament’s first order of business will be passing the 2015 state budget. Many battles have already been fought over the upcoming budget, most dramatically the fight over Lapid’s proposal to eliminate the value-added tax on new home purchases for young couples who fulfilled their national service and are buying their first home.
Lapid and Netanyahu reached an agreement on the issue earlier this month that will see Lapid’s plan passed as a separate bill in parallel with the passage of the budget.
By law, if the budget fails to pass, the government must fall.
“The public is not stupid, the public won’t continue to pay. The person who will pay is the prime minister. He will pay with his position — and soon,” Herzog said.
“Bibi, you’re afraid. You are disconnected. And when the head is disconnected, the government falls apart. And when the government crumbles, this disgraceful, shameful budget from your camp hits the pockets of Israeli citizens.”
In an apparent plug for his candidacy for prime minister, Herzog said that he, personally, would extend his hand in peace to the Palestinians. “I would come to Ramallah and tell the Palestinian people that there is hope for peace. I would tell them: there is someone to talk to. If they seek life, if they seek hope for the citizens, if they want a blossoming economy — they will find me, with a strong hand, outstretched for peace. If they choose terror and fighting, I will cut, without hesitation, the hand gripping the sword.”
In concluding his remarks, Herzog called on Knesset members from across the political spectrum to replace the government, for the benefit of the citizens of Israel who “deserve and pray not only for life, but for quality of life.”
Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.