Senior Labor MK urges leader Herzog to vow he won’t join coalition
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Senior Labor MK urges leader Herzog to vow he won’t join coalition

Amir Peretz says persistent reports that party may join Netanyahu government are causing it ‘tremendous damage’

Stuart Winer is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

Leader of opposition, and leader of the Labor party, MK Isaac Herzog, left, seen at a party event with MK Amir Peretz, April 12, 2016. (Tomer Neuberg/FLASH90)
Leader of opposition, and leader of the Labor party, MK Isaac Herzog, left, seen at a party event with MK Amir Peretz, April 12, 2016. (Tomer Neuberg/FLASH90)

Senior Labor MK Amir Peretz called Wednesday on his party’s leader, Isaac Herzog, to publicly and officially quash media reports that Labor may still join the governing coalition, and accused Herzog of doing “tremendous damage” by allowing such reports to percolate.

Herzog has denied as “a complete lie” the most recent round of reports that he is actively negotiating a way into the government, while hinting that he wouldn’t rule out such a move.

Channel 10 news reported Tuesday that negotiations on Herzog’s party joining the coalition were making progress, and that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was seeking to seal a deal in the next month.

Peretz told Army Radio that even before the Channel 10 report, he had been told by “two senior Likud ministers that Labor was heading into the government” and had personally spoken to Herzog about the matter. Herzog, he said, had reassured him that there were no negotiations and no intention to hold negotiations.

Peretz, a former defense minister and leader of the Labor Party, told Army Radio that although he accepts the denials, Herzog “must make a political move” and suggested the party leader make a formal, official decision that will “create a new political situation.”

“I can tell you that I personally have no intention of being part of a Netanyahu government,” Peretz pledged. “I very much hope that we aren’t there, not in negotiations and not in any intention to join the government.”

Asked by Channel 2 on Tuesday if he would promise to rule out joining the coalition, Herzog said: “I won’t give that answer.” Were the prime minister to set aside “his narrow interests and act in the national interest,” and were Netanyahu to show a readiness to make the “historic decisions” to advance Israeli-Palestinian peace, Herzog said, he would consider joining the government and would consult with his party.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu shakes hands with leader of the opposition Isaac Herzog during the opening session of the 20th Israeli parliament on March 31, 2015. (Nati Shohat/Flash90)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu shakes hands with leader of the opposition Isaac Herzog during the opening session of the 20th Israeli parliament on March 31, 2015. (Nati Shohat/Flash90)

According to the Channel 10 report, the Zionist Union faction — comprising the Labor and Hatnua parties — would receive eight ministerial portfolios as part of the agreement. The eight would include the Foreign Ministry, which would likely go to Herzog, as well as the Culture and Sports Ministry and the Economy Ministry.

Netanyahu would also commit to holding an international peace conference, to be attended by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi.

Peretz accused Netanyahu of only wanting Labor to join the government as a way of bolstering the coalition’s majority rather than having any real intention of making bold steps toward peace with the Palestinians.

The party, he added, needs to make “a decision clear to the public and to Netanyahu that we are not playing this game and we have no intention of being in the game.”

If Netanyahu really wanted to push a peace deal, Labor would support him from the opposition and provide him with “a security net,” Peretz promised.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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