Labor Stays Put After Herzog Victory

YERUSHALAYIM -

After Yitzchak Herzog trounced incumbent Shelly Yachimovich in the Labor Party election by 58.5 to 41.5 percent, the new leader declared he was not rushing to enter the government coalition with his mandate.

Speaking to reporters after his victory became official early Friday morning, Herzog said that if Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu made a “courageous diplomatic step” toward a peace agreement with the Palestinians, “he would be there to help him.” But in the meantime, with peace talks chronically on the verge of collapse, he said that joining the government would serve no constructive purpose.

Herzog is thought to be more likely than Yachimovich to join the coalition.

However, he said peace with the Palestinians should be Israel’s top priority. “And I have big doubts whether the prime minister knows this and is acting toward this,” he said.

Herzog, a 53-year-old father of three, has been a member of Knesset for a decade and served as Cabinet minister in a series of governments. His late father, Chaim Herzog, was president of Israel from 1983-93 and was also its ambassador to the United Nations. His uncle was the foreign minister Abba Eban.

Under Yachimovich, Labor focused almost entirely on jobs, the economy and Israel’s other social problems, with little attention given to security and foreign policy issues. Herzog is expected to focus once again on the diplomatic–security sphere.

Herzog will also be more pro-business than his predecessor.

On Friday, he told TheMarker media outlet that the business sector “needs to be restrained and not greedy, but [also] a partner and part of the growth of the economy.”

“Yachimovich distanced the business sector from the Labor Party,” Herzog said. “The needs of the business sector must be understood. [It] needs to be told the truth — that it is a partner to the growth and the building of the country, but it won’t be able to run wild.

“It’s possible that we will be able to collect more taxes from [business] to increase public revenues and enable everyone to subsist. My line when it comes to the business world is more open and diverse.”

Herzog’s pragmatic approach was reflected in his response to the layoffs at Teva. Whereas Yachimovich attacked the company for being greedy and irresponsible, Herzog spoke with management and labor leaders to encourage dialogue.