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Odeh: Herzog is unfit to lead the opposition

Arab leader calls Zionist Union chief a ‘pale imitation’ of Netanyahu; Yachimovich says she’ll likely run for party leadership

Leader of the Joint (Arab) List Ayman Odeh (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Leader of the Joint (Arab) List Ayman Odeh (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The head of the Joint (Arab) List Ayman Odeh attacked opposition leader Isaac Herzog on Saturday, calling him a “pale imitation” of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and saying he was “unfit” to lead the opposition. Meanwhile Herzog’s main opponent in the Zionist Union, MK Shelly Yachimovich, said she would likely challenge him for the party leadership.

Herzog has drawn fire from members of his camp after saying in an interview earlier this month that the two-state solution was not currently a realistic option.

Odeh said Saturday that “If (Herzog) believes the two-state solution is irrelevant, then he is irrelevant and should resign immediately.” Odeh added that Herzog “is unfit to serve as leader of the opposition, because that position’s essence is to offer an alternative to the government.”

He accused Herzog of being “a pale immitation of Netanyahu, and people will always prefer the original.” Instead of offering hope, he said, Herzog was only heightening despair, and “strengthening Netanyahu’s hold on power.”

The Zionist Union shot back in response that Odeh’s rejection of Herzog’s separation plan leaves him in the same camp as the right, which is “leading us to the disaster of a single Jewish-Arab state.”

Zionist Union party chief MK Isaac Herzog leads a party meeting in the Knesset, January 18, 2016. (FLASH90)
Zionist Union party chief MK Isaac Herzog leads a party meeting in the Knesset, January 18, 2016. (FLASH90)

Yachimovich on Saturday said she would likely run against Herzog for leadership of the Labor party in the next primaries, according to the Maariv website, though she stressed that she had not yet decided on the matter. Labor is one of two center-left parties, along with Hatnua, that make up the Zionist Union.

Earlier this week Yachimovich leveled heavy criticism on her Knesset faction’s leader over his proposal to unilaterally disengage from West Bank territories rather than engage in talks with the Palestinians.

“With a coalition being dragged along by the likes of [Jewish Home party MK Bezalel] Smotrich and [Likud MK Oren] Hazan, the Labor Party must offer an alternative political dialogue, not just to give up on it and use the common right-wing claim that ‘there is no-one to talk to,'” she told Israeli radio.

Yachimovich, a former leader of the Labor Party, stressed the importance of negotiations, especially during the current wave of violence, saying that while Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas may not be a “lover of Zion,” Israel may be facing its “last opportunity to speak with a secular, pragmatic, Palestinian leader, and we can’t lose this opportunity and play into the hands of Netanyahu.”

Labor MK Shelly Yachimovich, file photo (Miriam Alster/Flash90
Labor MK Shelly Yachimovich, file photo (Miriam Alster/Flash90

Herzog had told Army Radio that the two-state solution was not a realistic option for the time being.

“There is a need to initiate security measures that match the reality on the ground, and that means separation from the Palestinians,” he said. Herzog went on to espouse a plan that includes completing the West Bank security barrier and “physically separating” the Palestinian villages surrounding Jerusalem from the capital.

The two-state solution is not a “realistic option in the near future,” he said, adding that should he be elected prime minister, his coalition would focus on implementing security measures rather than a bilateral agreement.

“I don’t see a possibility at the moment of implementing the two-state solution,” he said. “I want to yearn for it, I want to move toward it, I want negotiations, I sign on to it and I am obligated to it, but I don’t see the possibility of doing it right now.”

Herzog on Friday defended those statements, telling Channel 2 in an interview that it may not have been what some party members wished to hear but it was nevertheless true.

“I tell my camp ‘Guys, do you want to die right or do you want to widen our (appeal) and stay in touch with reality?'” he said.

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