Shas and Labor forge unlikely alliance

Party leaders Deri and Herzog to join forces around ‘common interests’ such as poverty in hopes of toppling Netanyahu govenment

Yifa Yaakov is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

Newly-elected Labor Party leader Isaac Herzog (left) speaks to ultra-Orthodox Shas MK Ariel Atias during a Knesset plenum session, November 2013. (photo credit: Flash90)
Newly-elected Labor Party leader Isaac Herzog (left) speaks to ultra-Orthodox Shas MK Ariel Atias during a Knesset plenum session, November 2013. (photo credit: Flash90)

Shas Party chairman Aryeh Deri and newly elected Labor Party head Isaac Herzog have reached an agreement to work together to topple Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government, Maariv reported Monday.

According to the report, Deri and Herzog decided to join forces in the opposition and cooperate in the Knesset to “shorten the days” of the incumbent coalition.

“Herzog has spoken several times about his intention to lead a large opposition bloc which will take power and offer an alternative [to Netanyahu],” Maariv quoted Herzog’s press secretary as saying following the meeting between the two MKs.

“The rule of the right [wing] is bad, and does not address the citizens’ needs,” he was quoted as saying.

Commenting on the unlikely alliance, he added, “obviously, the agenda of the ultra-Orthodox parties differs from that of the Arab parties, for example [who also sit in the opposition] — but we can unite around common interests, such as combating poverty or safeguarding workers’ rights.”

Deri’s office, meanwhile, stated that “the two have agreed to increase cooperation and work together from the opposition to topple the government.”

A Shas party statement read that Deri and Herzog — both members of various Knesset subcommittees, among them the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee — had “excellent cooperation” and “good chemistry.”

The statement also noted that Deri had better rapport with Herzog than with previous Labor leader Shelly Yachimovich.

Herzog won the Labor primaries two weeks ago, defeating Yachimovich by a margin of 16 percent — some 3,000 votes.

Following the surprising win, Herzog said there was “no point” in joining the Netanyahu coalition in its current makeup.

“If [Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu] makes a daring move toward peace — and I think this is a fateful time for this country… there’s a direct link between this [negotiations with the Palestinians] and Iran — if he does, I’ll be there to help him. All options are on the table. But we aren’t there now,” said Herzog, keeping up the ambiguity he first voiced during his acceptance speech following his victory.

Herzog had castigated the composition of the current coalition, blasting hawkish Likud MKs such as deputy ministers Danny Danon and Zeev Elkin, whom he said advanced “anti-democratic bills,” and Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman who, he noted, recently suggested Israel develop alliances with other countries, following a very public clash with the United States over the emerging nuclear deal in Geneva between world powers and Iran.

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