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Ehud Barak Backs Isaac Herzog in Battle With Netanyahu

Former Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak formally endorsed the ZIonist Union’s Isaac Herzog for prime minister on Monday.

“I have known Isaac Herzog for decades,” Barak said, according to Haaretz. “He served as government secretary in my cabinet and as a minister by my side when I lead the Labor Party.”

Barak, a key moderate, called Herzog “sage, experienced and responsible,” lauding Herzog’s decision-making skills when it comes to political and security issues.

Some left-wing supporters of Herzog said the endorsement, which came as polls show a surge in support for Herzog, could do more harm than good as some supporters hold a grudge against Barak for joining forces with Netanyahu.

Netanyahu’s party trashed the endorsement, calling Barak a spent political force.

In other election news, far right leader Avigdor Liberman boasted that his party would grab at least 10 seats in the Knesset, even though opinion polls show it struggling to reach the threshhold of 5 seats.

The move came hours after 15,000 right-wing Israelis at a Tel Aviv rally heard Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vow not to withdraw from the West Bank.

The rally Sunday in Rabin Square, two days before Election Day, was much smaller than a 40,000-person rally in the same location advocated the right wing’s defeat.

Much of the crowd on Sunday appeared to be religious Zionist Jews or extremist settlers from the West Bank.

Polls last week — the last ones before the balloting — showed Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud Party trailing the center-left Zionist Union.

Along with his vow on the West Bank, Netanyahu claimed that the Zionist Union’s co-chairs, Isaac Herzog and Tzipi Livni, intended to cede eastern Jerusalem to Palestinian control.

He called for the crowd to increase right-wing turnout on Election Day to ensure that the right-wing parties stay in power. He also called on Moshe Kachlon, the former Likud minister who now heads the center-right Kulanu party, to endorse him for prime minister.

“This effort revolves around one message: Anyone but Bibi,” he said, referring to efforts to unseat him. “Ask yourselves, why are they doing this? Because they know that as long as I’m prime minister and Likud is in government, the nationalist camp is in government. And as long as the nationalist camp is in government, we won’t divide Jerusalem, there won’t be concessions, there won’t be retreats.”

Economy Minister Naftali Bennett, chairman of the religious Zionist Jewish Home party, also addressed the rally, singing the beginning of the song “Jerusalem of Gold” with the crowd. Eli Yishai, who heads the far-right Yachad party, spoke following Bennett.

With JTA

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