‘Herzog agreed to join coalition, but colleagues thwarted deal’

Zionist Union leader Isaac Herzog agreed terms weeks ago with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for his 24-seat party to join the coalition, but the deal was torpedoed by Herzog’s colleagues Tzipi Livni and Shelly Yachimovich, Israel’s Channel 10 news claims.

The report says that, despite Herzog’s consistent denials that he was considering bringing his party into the coalition, he and Netanyahu wrapped up the deal weeks ago — before Herzog’s was named as a suspect in a graft probe in late March.

The Zionist Union was to get seven ministerial posts, including foreign for Herzog and economics for Yachimovich. Livni was to get a more marginal position. The coalition guidelines were not to have changed, and the Orthodox-nationalist Jewish Home party was to have remained in the coalition, the TV report says.

The move, which would have stabilized Netanyahu’s coalition — which currently has just 61 seats in the 120-member Knesset — was primarily thwarted by Livni and Yachimovich, Channel 10 says.

File: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, left, and Zionist Union leader MK Isaac Herzog in the Knesset, January 20, 2014. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)
File: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, left, and Zionist Union leader MK Isaac Herzog in the Knesset, January 20, 2014. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)

When Herzog put the deal to the two of them, Yachimovich said while there were terms on which she would join the government, these terms were not acceptable. She also said she wanted to be justice minister. Livni, for her part, said she would not accept a marginal ministry.

The report says Jewish Home leader Naftali Bennett was prepared to go along with the agreement. Bennett’s party colleague, Ayelet Shaked, is the current justice minister.

Other factors helped destroy the deal, the report says, including Herzog’s legal problems and Zionist Union’s opposition to the government on the natural gas deal. But it was the opposition of Livni and Yachimovich that was chiefly to blame for the idea foundering.

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