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The New Arab

Israeli opposition leader warns of party becoming 'Arab lovers'

After electoral defeat in 2015, Herzog is looking to broaden his party's appeal [AFP]

Date of publication: 21 April, 2016

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Isaac Herzog, leader of the centre-left Zionist Union , has sparked controversy by warning his party they should not be viewed as 'Arab lovers' if they are to gain power.

Israel's opposition leader Isaac Herzog has come under fire for telling members of his party that they must not be viewed as "Arab lovers". 
 
The comment was made on Tuesday, when the Zionist Union leader discussed ways the party could broaden its appeal and win over right-wing voters.

Critical to this would be not giving the impression to the Israeli public that the centre-left party "are always Arab lovers".

Following the comment, some Israeli lawmakers condemned Herzog's remarks.

This included the former Labor Party Chairperson Shelly Yachimovich and Zouheir Bahloul, a Palestinian member of the Knesset. He sparked controversy last month by suggesting that Palestinains who attack Israeli soldiers are not terrorists.

MP Ayman Odeh took to Facebook to call for Herzog's resignation to make way for a "real and brave alternative" to Binyamin Netanyahu's right-wing government.

A day after making his controversial remarks, Herzog responded to his critics on Twitter.

"I've heard there are some who are not satisfied with my Zionist approach. If they want the chairman of the Zionist Union to give preference to Palestinian interests, I have a message for them: They should recalculate their route."

This is not the first time that the Labor leader has made controversial comments about Israel's indigenous minority group. After losing the 2015 elections to Likud leader Binyamin Netanyahu, he blamed the defeat on Palestinian-Israelis "streaming to the polls".

The Labor Party, headed by Herzog, is the larger of the two parties that form the Zionist Union.

Herzog is currently facing a police investigation into allegations that his successful bid to become Labor party leader in 2013 was funded by unlawful financial contributions. 

He was questioned under caution this week, and is also suspected of having failed to report a donation and making a false statement.

Some see these inflamatary comments as being an attempt to detract attention to the probe.

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