Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has for the first time confirmed reports of talks with Isaac Herzog’s Zionist Camp party aimed at forming a unity government, which Herzog has repeatedly denied.
“It never happened. He made no offer and there were no negotiations,” Herzog said as recently as April 15, and his office issued another denial earlier this week.
But the prime minister indicated that he has in fact been trying to induce both Herzog and Yisrael Beiteinu’s Avigdor Lieberman to broaden his thin 61-MK coalition, though to no avail.
“There’s one who doesn’t want, and one who isn’t able,” to join the government, he said, referring to Lieberman and Herzog respectively.
Lieberman has persistently accused Netanyahu of being soft on terrorists and on Wednesday called for his resignation because his “conduct encourages” terrorism.
“If for no other reason why Netanyahu should resign, it should be for the scandalous policy of immediately returning the remains of terrorists to their families,” Lieberman said.
Netanyahu also confirmed that negotiations with Herzog were scuttled by news of corruption allegations against him.
Reaction from Herzog’s party on Wednesday was in any case not encouraging.
MK Eitan Cabel, a Herzog ally, told Army Radio that he doesn’t know of such talks, and that if he is not involved, along with other senior party members, there is no chance the party will join the coalition.
“We cannot, under any circumstances join a unity government that is only meant to give Herzog a job,” Cabel said pointedly. Herzog was reportedly offered the foreign ministry post, which Netanyahu currently fills himself.
MK Shelly Yacimovich, a former party chairman and Herzog rival, was also negative.
“Herzog knows that he can’t make a move like this by himself and that he needs support not only from me, but from others,” she told Army Radio. “I assume I have the power to prevent it.
“I don’t want to say I have more control than I do over what happens, but I assume I have an influence.”