January 13, 2013
Q&A: ‘Labor will either form the government or head the opposition’
MK Yitzhak Herzog is a lawmaker from the Labor Party. A Knesset veteran, he has previously served as Minister of Welfare & Social Services, Minister of the Diaspora, Minister of Housing, and Minister of Tourism. He is also the son of former Israeli president Chaim Herzog. In the sixth in a series of interviews with Israeli politicians ahead of the upcoming elections, Herzog discusses Netanyahu's actions during the US elections, Iran's nuclear plans, and what's really on Israeli voters' minds. Previous guests in this series include Nitzan Horowitz, Meir Sheetrit, Danny Danon, Naftali Bennett and Yohanan Plesner.
What is the main topic or theme of the upcoming elections? Is it Iran? The peace process? The economy? What do you think is the real worry of the Israeli public today?
The most important challenge is the social gap, the inequality in our society. Ultimately, the most important thing for every Israeli is the social and economic situation. A study conducted recently by Stanley Greenberg found that 57% of the Israeli public thinks this is the most important issue in the campaign.
In this context, what is the markedly unique message that your party has to offer to the public?
The Labor Party has introduced a comprehensive plan for a fair and responsible society and economy, which provides solutions to strengthen the middle class and the Israeli economy, moving towards a fairer distribution of resources and assuming higher responsibilities by the state towards its citizens in all spheres of life (education, housing, health, welfare, etc.)
What would be the best coalition for Israel after the election, and do you think your party should consider joining a coalition headed by Prime Minister Netanyahu?
The best coalition is a coalition led by the Labor Party that would combine all the parties that are not on the extreme fringes. Unfortunately, Likud Beiteinu contains extremists like Lieberman, Feiglin and Elkin. Labor Party leader Shelly Yachimovich already made clear that due to the radicalization of the Likud, Labor will either form the government or head the opposition.
What kind of relationship would you expect the next prime minister to have with President Obama? How would you improve U.S.-Israel relations during President Obama's second term?
Netanyahu, who is trying to position himself as the bearer of diplomatic experience, intervened in an aggressive and irresponsible fashion in the US election and has now left us to eat the rotten fruit of that endeavor. If the head of the Labor Party, Shelly Yachimovich, is elected prime minister, she will first and foremost restore relations with the US president, and will act to strengthen ties in coordinating with the US against the Iranian nuclear program. Yachimovich has commended Obama on leading reforms in the social sphere in the United States, the most important of which has been the healthcare reform.
Do you think American Jews should take sides in Israeli elections, or just support the winning coalition after the event? If you do think American Jewry should have a voice, what kind of involvement and support do you have in mind?
No. They should not intervene but they are worried and care for Israel and we should listen to them. It is a diverse and pluralistic community.