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Zionist Union rebuffs Kahlon: Forget about us joining coalition

Herzog-led faction says it will not ‘give legitimacy’ to ‘bad path’ that Netanyahu government is on

Opposition leader Isaac Herzog sits with MK Tzipi Livni at a Zionist Union meeting in the Knesset on May 30, 2016. (Photo by Miriam Alster/FLASH90)
Opposition leader Isaac Herzog sits with MK Tzipi Livni at a Zionist Union meeting in the Knesset on May 30, 2016. (Photo by Miriam Alster/FLASH90)

Opposition party Zionist Union told Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon on Thursday to “forget about” the party joining a Likud-led coalition, a day after the Kulanu leader called on Isaac Herzog to bring his 24-member faction, made up of his own Labor party and Tzipi Livni’s Hatnua, into the government to advance a possible regional peace initiative.

“Likud and Kahlon can forget about us giving legitimacy to the bad path the Netanyahu government and its natural allies are on,” read a statement from the largest opposition party.

“We oppose this path and we will not join this coalition,” it went on.

Speaking at an event in Netanya on Wednesday, Kahlon said that there was a substantive effort underway to launch a regional peace initiative between Israel and several Arab neighbors, and called on Herzog to become a partner to the endeavor.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon attend the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem on August 5, 2015. (Marc Israel Sellem/Flash90/Pool)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon. (Marc Israel Sellem/Flash90/Pool)

“The rumors and talk of a significant diplomatic move in the region are far more substantial than mere hints in newspapers,” the Kulanu party leader said.

“I call on the Zionist Union to join the government and not to miss the historic window of opportunity that has been created,” he added. “This is not the time or place to offer details, but we have a rare opportunity for a dramatic shift at the regional level.”

Herzog had already dismissed Kahlon’s call by Wednesday evening, saying a statement to the press that he “has already told Kahlon what he had to say on Monday in a clear and loud voice.”

The statement apparently referred to Herzog’s speech in the Knesset in which he called on Kahlon “to dare to pay the heavy price for your inner truth” and take his Kulanu party out of the coalition, which would topple Netanyahu’s government.

Isaac Herzog speaking in the Knesset on May 23, 2016. (screen capture: Knesset channel)
Isaac Herzog speaking in the Knesset on May 23, 2016. (screen capture: Knesset channel)

Kahlon was in Netanya on Wednesday to receive an honorary citizen’s award from the city. He suggested that the new potential for a regional peace effort centered on a conference of regional powers, “a regional conference where all interested parties are represented.”

Such a conference “would be an important, desirable and appropriate framework. The Kulanu party and myself will support it and advance it with all our strength.”

It would also constitute “a significant catalyst for another expansion of the coalition, and I don’t think the Zionist Union can avoid taking part in this challenge.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has repeatedly called on Zionist Union to join the coalition. He has refused to appoint full-time ministers to the ministries of economy, foreign affairs, communications and regional cooperation in order, he said, to entice Zionist Union to join the government.

Coalition talks between Likud and Zionist Union collapsed in mid-May, with each side blaming their failure on the other, as Netanyahu cemented a coalition deal with Yisrael Beytenu head Avigdor Liberman to have his five-seat party join. Liberman was sworn in as defense minister this week.

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