Opposition head will work with PM against Iran deal, won’t join gov’t
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Opposition head will work with PM against Iran deal, won’t join gov’t

Zionist Union leader Herzog says security paramount in facing down 'dangerous' nuke accord; blaming PM, Lapid calls deal worst foreign policy failure in Israeli history

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (2R), chairman of the Israeli parliament Yuli Edelstein (2L), head of opposition Isaac Herzog (L) and head of the Foreign Affairs and Defense committee, Tzachi haNegbi (R) attend a committee meeting on June 29, 2015. (Miriam Alster/FLASH90)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (2R), chairman of the Israeli parliament Yuli Edelstein (2L), head of opposition Isaac Herzog (L) and head of the Foreign Affairs and Defense committee, Tzachi haNegbi (R) attend a committee meeting on June 29, 2015. (Miriam Alster/FLASH90)

Opposition leader Isaac Herzog said Wednesday he would work with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s ruling coalition to thwart the Iran nuclear deal, in a rare show of cooperation.

Herzog met with Netanyahu late Tuesday for an update on the nuclear agreement, which has been roundly criticized by both, as well as by the cabinet.

“I had a meeting yesterday where I learned about the deal and I think it is bad for Israel. [Netanyahu and myself] will certainly cooperate when it comes to the security of Israel. As an Israeli patriot, this deal is dangerous,” Herzog told Israeli news site Walla.

According to a statement from the Prime Minister’s Office, Netanyahu updated Herzog on the security implications of the deal, which were also reviewed by the cabinet ministers.

Herzog had joined other opposition politicians Tuesday in criticizing Netanyahu over the deal, saying he both failed to thwart it and damaged ties with the US in the process of trying.

He told the prime minister he shared the view that the agreement was a bad deal and added that he would do everything for the security of the State of Israel under the new circumstances, according to the Prime Minister’s Office.

Netanyahu told Herzog that it was highly important that the opposition and coalition were in lockstep, presenting a united front, regarding the dangers to Israel posed by the agreement.

Herzog said the main dangers of the deal come from the lifting of sanctions that “immediately give Iran a lot of money and resources, which will reach our enemies at our borders.”

“Now Iran is out of the cage and will become a regional tiger,” he said, calling the agreement “a complex challenge that mandates cooperation on understanding the threat and on finding solutions.”

Herzog refused to discuss whether his party would join the government: “I am not dealing with politics. We can be a responsible opposition. We will settle our account with the prime minister on his actions and decision in this process, but now the situation is different.”

Sources close to Netanyahu have said the prime minister is seeking to lure Herzog and his Zionist Union faction into the opposition, where he would receive the foreign minister post.

Meretz leader Zehava Gal-on, also in the opposition, accused Herzog of seeking to join the government, speculating on Army Radio it would happen within two weeks.

Zionist Union sources told Walla in response that Gal-on’s comments were “utter drivel.”

Speaking at the Knesset on the Hebrew date anniversary of the death of Ze’ev Jabotinsky, the founder of Revisionist Zionism, Herzog scolded Gal-on, saying that the Iran agreement is an issue of national security.

“And I tell my friend Zehava Gal-on: All this can be done from the opposition; when it comes to the state’s security you can work from the opposition — with even more force,” he said.

Several opposition figures have criticized both the Iran deal and Netanyahu’s management of the issue.

Yesh Atid chairman Yair Lapid said Wednesday the Iran deal was the country’s biggest foreign policy failure ever.

Chairman of Yesh Atid Yair Lapid, speaks during a faction meeting at the Knesset, on July 13, 2015. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)
Chairman of Yesh Atid Yair Lapid, speaks during a faction meeting at the Knesset, on July 13, 2015. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

“We stand today facing the greatest foreign policy failure by any Israeli prime minister since the establishment of the state,” Lapid told the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee. “Netanyahu] is not [former British prime minister Winston] Churchill before the Second World War, he is [former Israeli prime minister] Golda [Meir] after the Yom Kippur War.”

The 1973 war, in which Israel was surprised by several Arab armies and needed urgent US airlifts of weapons, is considered one of the greatest strategic fiascoes in the history of the country. Then-prime minister Meir resigned in the wake of a commission of inquiry that analyzed Israel’s failure to see the war coming.

Lapid said that he would defend Israel to the world but added that a better agreement could have been reached:

“To the outside world, in English, we will support the government and explain to the whole world how dangerous this agreement is, and I have been doing this since yesterday,” he said. “But inside, in Hebrew, let’s face it – the prime minister failed in reaching a different agreement […] we could have had a deal in which the main issue is that of inspection. Sanctions could have been removed based on milestones [reached] and not according to a schedule, and then the deal would be different,” he said.

Lapid said Netanyahu has decimated Israel’s foreign relations: “Until yesterday the entire world was convinced the US and Israel always walk hand in hand. As of yesterday [the world] learned that the US will no longer listen to the prime minister, the Europeans won’t listen to the prime minister, the Chinese, the Russians, the Democrats [in the US], and he left scorched earth in Israel’s foreign relations. [Netanyahu] needs to go home after a failure of such colossal proportions. The prime minister cannot remain in office.”

Lapid vowed to “continue fighting to the last minute so that the whole world and the US Congress understand that lifting sanctions without changing the issue of inspections would be wrong.”

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