Opposition leader Yitzhak Herzog (Zionist Union), spoke at the King David Hotel in Jerusalem on Sunday morning, at a conference of Democratic representatives from US Congress.
Herzog attacked Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s conduct, saying that “as head of the largest party in the opposition it is important to know that Israel seeks a political alternative to a broad line of national agendas often compatible with your [i.e. the Democratic – ed.] agenda.”
“I have recently heard the Prime Minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, say there is no disagreement between us on the Iranian issue, although I stood up against him in the elections and I want to replace him as prime minister and topple the government on a daily basis,” Herzog added. “The truth is that there are clear differences between us on many issues. Even on the subject of dealing with Iran’s nuclear program.”
“Although we have no difference in the definition of the threat, I have criticized the agreement with Iran and I think there is a great danger,” he continued, noting that the deal could disrupt “the balance of power” in the Middle East. “I also believe that the agreement legitimizes the Islamic Republic’s nuclear threshold in 10 to 15 years from now in a completely different way. Just look at the positive reactions of [Syrian President Bashar] Assad and Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah to the agreement to understand what I mean.”
Herzog then pandered to US President Barack Obama’s opinion that Netanyahu attempts to “interfere” in American politics.
“But – and this is a big but – I have no intention to interfere in American politics,” Herzog claimed. “I do not intend to publicly confront the US president or his administration. I have no intention to tell you how to vote.”
“Between us, relations with the US are a key component of our national security,” he continued. “The debate between us and the United States is a dispute within the family and we must set rules for how to manage it and which lines we must not cross.”
“Now is the time to build, together with the United States a new configuration of the balance of power in our region that will deter Iran,” he added. “This is based on broad security understandings between Israel and the moderate Arab Sunni states which see Iran as a serious threat.”
“Brave dialogue may be the only way to lead the United States, in coordination with the other world powers, to make new security arrangements and keep the balance of power in the region,” he opined. “This can be done on the basis of upgrading dramatically the level of political, military and intelligence collaboration between the United States and Israel to keep Israel’s power and capabilities.”
“Our enemies only benefit by seeing us fighting,” he added.
Herzog also openly embraced Obama.
“We must not reject the outstretched hand of US President and his willingness to further strengthen Israel’s power, as he proved in an unprecedented manner during his tenure,” he said. “We have to upgrade this alliance to make it clear that damage to Israel or its security is a security threat to the United States, and to make clear that Israel will retain its decision-making independence in matters relating to its security.”
He stressed, moreover, that Israel only seeks peace.
“You know well that Israel does not rejoice in the conflict, does not seek and does not want to drag people to war,” he stated. “On the contrary. We, all of us, are peacemakers, who want to live and trust in the security and prosperity of the State of Israel.”
“I am ready to meet with anyone anywhere to discuss any subject that would promote peace and understanding between the peoples of the region.”
He also stressed that the Iranian leadership must be clear that Israel will not yield.
“There is nothing that infuriates me more than to see [Iranian] President [Hassan] Rouhani call Israel the ‘Zionist entity’ he can’t even say the word ‘Israel,” Herzog said. “It’s time to let them know – Tehran and other leaders of the region, whose hands are stained with the blood of terrorism – that Israel is a reality and we are here to stay. There is no power in the world that will change that fact.”