Herzog, Bennett spar over 'loving, hating Arabs'

Zionist Union chairman claims other parties stealing votes because people believe that he 'loves Arabs.'

Tova Dvorin ,

Naftali Bennett
Naftali Bennett
Yonatan Sindel/Flash 90

Opposition leader Yitzhak Herzog (Zionist Union) engaged in a verbal sparring with Education Minister and Jewish Home chairman Naftali Bennet Wednesday, after the former claimed to a crowd Tuesday night that "we have to stop giving people the impression that we love Arabs." 

"I hear there are some who are unhappy with my Zionist approach," Herzog stated Wednesday morning, on Twitter. "If they want the chairman of the Zionist Union to prefer the interests of the Palestinians, I have a message for you: consider a new path." 

Herzog made the remarks during an event in Ashkelon Tuesday, whereby he claimed to be "centrist" and admitted very few differences between him and Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon. Part of the context includes surveys showing that Yair Lapid's Yesh Atid party is gaining votes at the Zionist Union's expense. 

"Lapid is taking more votes from us today, amid the fact that, among other things, he is moving further to the right of us in the national consciousness."

He explained that he and his party have to figure out how to get into the hearts of the public.

"How do we convince them that 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, or without giving the sense - I keep finding this during public events - that we love Arabs?" he continued. 

Bennett rebuked Herzog for implying that the entire right wing hates Arabs, as it were. 

"Israeli Arabs constitute about 20% of the population," he said, noting that he "does not hate him." 

"They are citizens with equal rights and I am their Education Minister, and I am sick and tired of repeating it." 

Joint List chairman MK Ayman Odeh responded to Herzog's statement, calling it "irrelevant" and branding Herzog "not a leader" who is "imitating [Prime Minister Binyamin] Netanyahu." 

"Precisely in these difficult times, we must present an alternative to true and brave power of hatred of Netanyahu and the right," said MK Odeh, "an alternative to the solution of a just peace, equality and democracy and the common struggle for the future of us all. "