Herzog Forced to Clarify Comment

MK Isaac Herzog (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)
MK Isaac Herzog (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

Israel’s opposition leader Isaac Herzog has come under fire for saying his party can’t be perceived as “Arab lovers” if it wants to reach more voters.

MK Ayman Odeh from the Joint Arab List posted on Wednesday that Herzog should step down to make way for a “real and brave alternative” to the current nationalist government.

Other lawmakers from across Israel’s political spectrum also slammed Herzog’s comments, made at a party event on Tuesday. Herzog discussed how his centrist Zionist Camp could appeal to increasingly right-leaning Israelis “without giving a feeling … that we are always Arab lovers.”

Criticism came from within his own party and on the left as well. MK Shelly Yachimovich (Labor) called Herzog’s statement inappropriate.

Herzog has since sought to clarify his comments. He says he seeks to appeal to voters who mistakenly perceive the party as caring more for Palestinian rather than Israeli needs.

The initial remarks, first reported in Haaretz, quoted him as saying: “Where do we enter into the hearts of the public? By making them believe we have not only the experience but also the ability to change the situation in the country, without abandoning the security of Israel, and without giving the feeling – which I encounter during meetings with a myriad of Israelis – that we always love the Arabs.

“You have to understand the shifts happening within the Israeli society today – [Yair] Lapid (Yesh Atid) took votes from us in the polls because, among other things, they are moving further to the right of us in the national consciousness, and that requires a discussion,” Herzog explained.

On Wednesday, Herzog swung back at the critics. “I heard that there are some who were not satisfied with my Zionist approach,” he said. “If they want the leader of the Zionist Camp to prefer the interests of the Palestinians, I have a message for them: they should re-think their path.”

MK Eitan Cabel, a close associate of Herzog’s, came to his defense: “The chairman of the Zionist Camp is correct that a significant number of Israelis claim that we support the stance of the Palestinians even more that we support the concerns and interests of Israelis. I share his opinion that it is important for us to strive to change this,” Cabel stated.

Later in the day, Herzog was slightly injured when his car was involved in a bumper-to-bumper collision on the coastal highway near Rishpon heading north. He was given medical treatment at the scene, but did not require hospitalization.

Two other passengers were lightly wounded as well, and were likewise treated at the scene.