Herzog doubles down on 'loving Arabs' comments

Opposition head responds to MKs angered by comments: 'If they think I'll prefer Palestinian interests, they should think again.'

Ido Ben-Porat ,

Yitzhak Herzog
Yitzhak Herzog
Yonatan Sindel/Flash90

Embattled Israeli Opposition Leader Yitzhak Herzog has doubled down on controversial remarks he made yesterday (Tuesday), in which he opined that his party needs to reconnect with the Israeli people and dispel the image that they instinctively side with the Arab world against Israel.

The Zionist Union leader came under fire from a number of Arab and far-left MKs within his party for the comments, first reported by Haaretz, in which he told party activists: "Where do we enter into the hearts of the public? By making them believe we have not only the experience but also the ability to change the situation in the country, without abandoning the security of Israel, God forbid, and without giving the feeling – which I encounter during meetings with a myriad of Israelis – that we always love the Arabs.

"It’s complicated, but it's part of the deal, it's part of the challenge. We are a party that always knew how to be a ruling party.”

Herzog responded to the backlash - specifically from radical Arab MK Zuhair Bahloul - on Twitter.

"I heard that there are some who were not satisfied with my Zionist approach," he tweeted. "If they want the leader of the Zionist Union to prefer the interests of the Palestinians, I have a message for them: they should re-think their path."

MK Bahloul - who previous raised controversy with comments of his own in which he expressed sympathy for terrorists who kill Israeli soldiers - had responded angrily to his party leader's comments, equated Herzog's statement to what Prime Minister Binaymin Netanyahu said on election day, when he “warned” that Arab citizens of Israel were turning out en masse to the polling stations.

“Apparently inspired by the ‘Arabs flocking to the polls’ statement, Herzog is also preparing a juicy slogan for his next campaign,” charged Bahloul.

“Disavowing yourself of 20% of the population so blatantly, pretending to be a soft rightist and becoming stressed out over every poll – is not the way to produce an alternative to power,” he added.

“This is another incomprehensible demoralization of the legacy of Yitzhak Rabin; I condemn Herzog’s remarks and demand an apology on behalf of the Arab society in Israel,” said Bahloul.