Opposition leader calls coalition government ‘Spongebob SquarePants leaders’ who failed to lead Israel during the ongoing wave of terror attacks; MK Livni calls for ‘central democratic bloc’ as alternative to government.

Opposition leader Isaac Herzog (Zionist Union) aimed scathing criticism at Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his government on Thursday, berating and mocking senior ministers.

“Now there isn’t even a single leftist ‘polluting’ the government’s agenda,” Herzog said a the Herzliya Conference. “We finally have a rightist government – a rightist prime minister, a rightist defense minister, and a rightist education minister. I thought we got a bunch of superheroes,” he said derisively. “Instead we got SpongeBob SquarePants leaders.”

“There isn’t a single left-winger you can blame for (the recent) terror attacks,” the opposition leader continued. “There are no Labor Party members ‘preventing the IDF from winning,’” he added, referencing a popular right-wing bumper sticker.

Opposition leader Isaac Herzog (Photo: Gil Yohanan)
Opposition leader Isaac Herzog (Photo: Gil Yohanan)


“Now there’s no ‘Oslo criminal’ stopping the heroes of the right from beating terror, annihilating terror, thwarting terror, crushing terror, dismantling terror,” he added, mocking the aggressive rhetoric of his right-wing rivals. “And if you have any other strong words describing this agenda you may send them to the inbox of Naftali ‘Batman’ Bennett and ‘Popeye’ Lieberman.”

On a more serious note, Herzog referred to a “unique opportunity” created by a shifting of regional alliances that put Israel’s interests in line with those of local Arab governments.

“Moderate Arab nations are coalescing into a kind of informal Sunni Arab version of NATO in the Middle East that identifies the same threats that Israel does,” Herzog said. “Unlike the previous generation, today many of the Sunni leaders suffer less from what I call an ‘Israel complex’ that their predecessors had.”

“The notion that a group of moderate Arab states are willing to politically engage with Israel by way of a regional initiative is a unique opportunity,” Herzog added.

Herzog was followed at the conference by the Jordanian and Egyptian ambassadors to Israel, who both spoke out in favor of the Arab Peace Initiative, originally put forth by Saudi Arabia in 2002. The Arab plan proposes an Israeli retreat to the borders before the 1967 Six-Day War, along with the establishment of a Palestinian state and the normalizing of relations between Israel and the Arab world.

“In our opinion, the Arab peace initiative stands as the master of all initiatives,” Jordan’s ambassador to Israel, Walid Obeidat, said.

Herzog vowed to continue working for peace. “I and my partners in the Zionist Union will continue our efforts to strive for and actualize the vision for the two-state solution based upon this regional opportunity, which can be started in the immediate future,” he said. “With daring and courageous leadership, we will be able to realize an opportunity for a better future for our children.”

‘Words can accidentally set a fire ablaze’

The opposition leader talked about his negotiations with Netanyahu to join the government: “I decided to take an unprecedented risk on both the political and personal level. I understood that I may pay a heavy price and even sacrifice my seat and some of members of my party will not forgive me. But I decided that this is my job and belief.”

“From this position,” Herzog said, “I opened the door to Netanyahu, extended my hand and said ‘you are the engine of the right, I am the engine of the left. Behind us are cars full of mothers and fathers, members of different sectors, teachers, a car of doctors and a car of nurses and many more cars that together constitute a full country, full of wonderful parts. However, none of us will move if we don’t build one train that could lead the cars on a new journey of new hope and new opportunity.'”

But Netanyahu chose to ally himself with Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Lieberman, who was appointed defense minister upon bringing his five-member party into the government.

“Netanyahu preferred considerations of political survival that are narrow and dangerous, and established a super right-wing government,” Herzog said.

He also cautioned Israeli leaders to “be wary of bombastic words, insinuations about the politics of our neighbors,” explaining that “words can accidentally set a fire ablaze.”

The opposition chairman also discussed the defense aid negotiations with the United States in light of the White House’s statement that it will oppose adding hundreds of millions of dollars to Israel’s aid package.

“America, this government’s biggest enemy after Iran, announces to the world that they are cutting military aid. So who will fund the air defense system protecting children in Sderot and Kiryat Shmona? And who will ship the ammunition for the emergency warehouses? And who will stop our enemies in the UN? Will (Israeli UN Ambassador) Danny Danon get help from (Likud MK) Oren Hazan?”

‘There’s majority support for two-state solution’

Herzog’s partner in the Zionist Union, MK Tzipi Livni, also spoke at the Herzliya Conference, saying she intended to present “a plan to form a central democratic bloc” in the coming months.

“The Zionist Union was the beginning of this move, and now we needed to take it further,” she said.

MK Tzipi Livni (Photo: Gil Yohanan)
MK Tzipi Livni (Photo: Gil Yohanan)


Livni declared that “our job now is to wake up the sleeping moderate camp and create a clear bloc to fight for Israel’s Jewish and democratic nature, which is in favor of two nation states and against the path chosen by the right-wing coalition.”

She asserted that “there is a majority that supports the two-state solution in Israel, and there is a need to have a large camp to give this majority a clear voice.”

As reported by Ynetnews