The Zionist Union would be willing to form a government with the Likud party following Israel’s upcoming March 17 elections, the party’s leader Isaac Herzog said Sunday, adding that any coalition led by him would not include the Joint (Arab) List.
“I would be happy to receive the president’s support [to form a coalition], as well as all 120 members of Knesset, including [Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu himself,” Herzog said in an interview with the Walla news site. “Likud may sit in my government, this is one of our options.”
The Zionist Union head went on to stress that in any case, the Joint (Arab) List, which is projected to gain the third-greatest number of seats in the next Knesset, would not join his government.
“The Joint List has announced its intention not to be part of any coalition, so that isn’t relevant,” he said. “They are legitimate, and have respectable leaders, but there is no chance they’ll be part of the government. They’re not prepared to do it.”
Asked whether the Zionist Union would sit in a Likud-run government, Herzog dodged the question. “I am focusing exclusively on beating Netanyahu. Period.”
Herzog added that if he were elected prime minister, he would work to advance peace talks with the Palestinians, stressing that he would “certainly” freeze construction in West Bank settlements outside the major blocs as a confidence-building measure.
The final polls published Friday indicated that the Zionist Union has a comfortable four-seat lead over Likud going into the final stretch. Likud still seems slightly better placed to build a majority coalition in the 120-seat Knesset, the polls showed, but forming a stable majority could be a complex task for either of the two main parties.
Netanyahu has ruled out the notion of sharing the prime ministerial seat in a unity government with the Zionist Union. “I won’t rotate the premiership,” he vowed last week. “It must be prevented.”
Meanwhile, Kulanu party chief Moshe Kahlon expressed heavy doubts Sunday over Netanyahu’s commitment to offer the former Likud member the position of finance minister following the elections.
Kahlon, who has refused to commit to recommending either Netanyahu or Herzog to be prime minister after the Tuesday vote, has been portrayed as something of a kingmaker, with the ability to give either of the candidates an easier chance at forming a coalition.
On Saturday and Sunday, Netanyahu said in several interviews that he would make Kahlon finance minister, in a bid to woo the Kulanu head to his side.
But Kahlon on Sunday morning rebuffed the advance, saying that Netanyahu’s promise couldn’t be trusted.
“Netanyahu had already promised me in the past [that I would head] the Israel Land Administration and the Finance Ministry, but did not keep [his promise],” Kahlon said, according to the Ynet news site.
“[The offer] is flattering, but it does not solve the desperate problems of Israeli society,” he added.
Also Sunday, Yisrael Beytenu party leader Avigdor Liberman visited the Cave of the Patriarchs in the West Bank city of Hebron, Israel Radio reported. At the holy site, which is considered sacred to both Jews and Muslims, Liberman stressed that his party was determined to remain an integral part of Israel’s right-wing political camp, indicating that the Yisrael Beytenu head will likely strive to join a Netanyahu-led government after the elections.
Adiv Sterman and Lazar Berman contributed to this report.