Herzog likens Israel’s leaders to SpongeBob, Batman and Popeye
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Herzog likens Israel’s leaders to SpongeBob, Batman and Popeye

Opposition chief says cabinet members are all talk, no action; Livni urges referendum on annexation or partition of territories

Opposition leader Isaac Herzog addresses the Herzliya Conference on Thursday, June 16, 2016. (Courtesy)
Opposition leader Isaac Herzog addresses the Herzliya Conference on Thursday, June 16, 2016. (Courtesy)

Zionist Union leader Isaac Herzog and the party’s number two, Tzipi Livni, both lambasted the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday, with Herzog likening members of the ruling coalition to TV’s SpongeBob SquarePants, to Batman and to Popeye the Sailor Man.

Speaking at the Herzliya Conference, an annual gathering on policy and strategy, Herzog, who leads the opposition, mocked Netanyahu, saying he and his fellow members of coalition talk a big game but fail to follow through.

“We thought we got a bunch of superheroes with superpowers, but [instead] we got SpongeBob-like leaders,” Herzog said.

He also spoke about the recent collapse in talks between the ruling Likud party and the Zionist Union to have the latter join the coalition, and the entry of Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman’s right-wing Yisrael Betyenu party into the government instead.

Benjamin Netanyahu, right, and Avigdor Liberman, left, sign a coalition agreement in the Knesset on May 25, 2016. (Yonatan Sindel/FLASH90)
Benjamin Netanyahu, right, and Avigdor Liberman, left, sign a coalition agreement in the Knesset on May 25, 2016. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Herzog said he was willing to take the chances of paying a political price for his willingness to join the coalition — against the wishes of members of his party — in order to renew the peace process with the Palestinians and work toward a two-state solution, “but Netanyahu preferred to take [his] political survival into narrow, dangerous consideration and now we have a right-wing, right-wing government.”

Herzog said that the government now had no “left-wing element to blame.”

“There is no left-wing element to pollute [its] agenda, there is no left-wing element causing terror attacks, there is no Labor member that is preventing the IDF from winning, there is no Oslo [Accords] criminal preventing right-wing heroes from overcoming terrorism, destroying it, wiping it out, ending and quashing it,” he said sarcastically. “If there are additional ways of expressing it, you are welcome to email them to [Jewish Home party leader] Naftali ‘Batman’ Bennett and Popeye Liberman.”

Livni, who also spoke at the conference, said plans were underway to establish a “democratic bloc” in the Knesset that will seek a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Zionist Union chairman and opposition Leader Isaac Herzog, and party co-founder Tzipi Livni, at the party faction meeting at the Knesset on June 13, 2016. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)
Zionist Union chairman and opposition leader Isaac Herzog, and party co-founder Tzipi Livni, at the party faction meeting at the Knesset on June 13, 2016. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

“Israel must make a decision right now that it has avoided making for 50 years,” she said. “The real question is what are we doing with the territories.

“Without a decision on annexation or partition, we’re bumbling about without a direction, without choosing our future, while the conflict seeps in and undermines Israel’s values,” she said. “Our mission now is to awaken the moderate camp and… fight for Israel’s founding principles. History will not forgive us if we do not do this.”

Livni called for a referendum before a peace agreement is reached, if any.

“A referendum on one question: Do we want one state, and to annex the territories millions of Palestinians live on in Judea and Samaria? Or do we want to partition, and to keep Israel a Jewish and democratic state? There are no other options,” she said.

Speaking after former defense minister Moshe Ya’alon, who announced that he would run for prime minister in the next elections and criticized the Netanyahu government as “unethical,” Livni welcomed the announcement.

“I’m glad that Ya’alon is going to war over values, but the real question is what we’re going to do with the territories,” she said.

Ya’alon is considered a liberal on many domestic issues, including gay rights and rule of law, but opposes an Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank in the near term on security grounds.

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