Opposition leader Isaac Herzog (Labor) announced Wednesday that he would not continue talks to form a unity government while Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is also negotiating with Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Lieberman.
"I don't work based on Lieberman's agenda and his whims, but according to my truth," Herzog said. "Just like in the past I was not swayed by threats and abuse, the same applies here."
Herzog convened a press conference on Wednesday afternoon after Lieberman convened his own press conference, which resulted in Netanyahu calling the Yisrael Beytenu leader and inviting him for a meeting to discuss joining the government.
The Labor party leader stressed that "now, more than ever, the choice is between Lieberman in the Defense Ministry or us in the Defense Ministry; between madness and sanity; between diplomatic and economic isolation and prosperity."
He went on to declare that "history will be the judge of this moment."
Sources close to the prime minister stated that "the talks with Lieberman are not closing the door on the Labor party. The prime minister is interested in continuing the talks with the Labor party in order to create a government as broad as possible."
Herzog is facing fierce opposition from some of Labor's senior members over his intentions to join Netanyahu's government, with some in the party talking about an inevitable split within the party.
Labor officials claimed on Tuesday that Herzog had already finalized with Netanyahu most of the details over joining the coalition and is now working to get the party's members on board.
These officials said that Herzog—along with allies MK Eitan Cabel and Histadrut Labor Federation chairman Avi Nissenkorn—have already begun preparing the groundwork on Monday. Herzog is planning a blitz of phone calls to thousands of party members to convince them to support the agreement he has reached with Netanyahu, which will likely be presented next week.
Other senior officials in the Labor party spoke at the press conference, including Nissenkorn, who said he no longer sees a point in the talks to join the government.
According to Nissenkorn, who was the force behind Herzog's attempt to join the government, "I've supported and still support the possibility of having a true unity government for the good of the country. A government that would advance a diplomatic process, safeguard the rule of law, stop the incitement that is currently prevalent, and narrow social gaps. The current negotiations are not leading towards that. At this time, I don't see a point in continuing the negotiations."
Meanwhile MK Shelly Yachimovich, the former leader of the Labor party, harshly criticized Herzog, saying he was "a willing hero of a disgraceful display that brings shame on the Labor party. As expected, he is licking the boot that kicked him. The entire Labor party, its excellent MKs and all of those who believe in its values have suffered a serious blow under his leadership."
She went on to say that "Netanyahu's meeting with Lieberman will also come to naught. This farce should be ended immediately. Oh, the shame."