(JNS.org) Former Israeli president Shimon Peres endorsed Isaac Herzog of the Zionist Union alliance for prime minister. The endorsement comes as the latest polls forecast that the Zionist Union will win up to 24 Knesset seats in the upcoming March 17 election, more than the 21 projected seats for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud party.
"It's natural for people to have different opinions and to vote according to their conscience. As for me, I supposed Herzog for prime minister. I have known Herzog and his family for many years, I've seen him up close filling senior positions with excellence and taking part in debates and decisions that have great importance to Israel's future,” Peres said in a statement.
"He is a level-headed leader who maintains integrity, and is full of responsibility and dedication to the Israeli public. Herzog is fit for the role of prime minister and as a leader will know how to bridge gaps, and to join Israeli society in bonds of solidarity and hope,” added Peres, Yedioth Ahronoth reported.
In its own statement, the Likud party responded that “of course Peres, a pronounced leftist, supports Herzog and [Zionist Union member Tzipi] Livni—Peres is the architect of the Oslo Accords, enthusiastically supported the disengagement, and is devoted to the retreat from Judea and Samaria. ... Only a vote for a large Likud and closing the gap between Likud and the Zionist Camp will prevent the establishment of a government of concessions and retreat that will allow a second terror state to be formed in the heart of Israel."
Herzog, the leader of the Labor party, and Livni, head of the Hatnuah party, merged their parties ahead of the election. The two party leaders have said they will rotate the role of prime minister if the Zionist Union wins the most Knesset seats in the election and is subsequently able to form a governing coalition.