There is a substantive effort underway to launch a regional peace initiative between Israel and several Arab neighbors, Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon indicated Wednesday, as he called on Zionist Union leader Isaac Herzog to join the Likud-led coalition.
“The rumors and talk of a significant diplomatic move in the region are far more substantial than mere hints in newspapers,” the Kulanu party leader said at an event in Netanya.
“I call on the Zionist Union to join the government and not to miss the historic window of opportunity that has been created,” he added. “This is not the time or place to offer details, but we have a rare opportunity for a dramatic shift at the regional level.”
Herzog dismissed Kahlon’s call on Wednesday evening. In a statement, his office said that, “Herzog has already told Kahlon what he had to say on Monday in a clear and loud voice.”
The statement apparently referred to Herzog’s speech in the Knesset in which he called on Kahlon “to dare to pay the heavy price for your inner truth” by taking his Kulanu party out of the coalition, toppling Netanyahu’s government.
Kahlon was in Netanya on Wednesday to receive an honorary citizen’s award from the city. He suggested that the new potential for a regional peace effort centered on a conference of regional powers, “a regional conference where all interested parties are represented.”
Such a conference “would be an important, desirable and appropriate framework. The Kulanu party and myself will support it and advance it with all our strength.”
It would also constitute “a significant catalyst for another expansion of the coalition, and I don’t think the Zionist Union can avoid taking part in this challenge.”
“You don’t lead a diplomatic process or bring about change from the opposition,” he said.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has repeatedly called on Zionist Union to join the coalition. He has refused to appoint full-time ministers to the ministries of economy, foreign affairs, communications and regional cooperation in order, he said, to encourage Zionist Union to join the government.
Coalition talks between Likud and Zionist Union collapsed in mid-May, with each side blaming their failure on the other.
Labor MK Itzik Shmuli rejected Kahlon’s call on Wednesday, saying he “suggests that Kahlon start building apartments instead of an imaginary coalition, because in the meantime the cost of housing is skyrocketing.”