Labor leader Shelly Yacimovich upset her rivals for the party chairmanship over the weekend when she set new preconditions for Labor entering Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s governing coalition.
In an interview with Ha’aretz, she said that for Labor to join, there must be an American “blueprint” for a final-status agreement, a government decision on beginning the evacuation of isolated settlements and the departure of Habayit Hayehudi from the coalition.
“Anything less than that will not be enough,” Yacimovich said. “If Netanyahu thinks he can have us for nothing, like [Ehud] Barak in 2009, he is making a serious mistake. Barak’s partnership in the previous government serves as a warning, from my point of view. Nothing happened in those years, not even when Labor, or Independence [Barak’s party after he bolted from Labor] was in the government."
"Just the opposite. If we enter now, we will not be an accelerating element in the process, but a foot-dragging one. The moment we are there, Netanyahu will think he can buy more time.”
Yacimovich’s rivals said she had changed what the party was saying for the past nine months, namely that Labor would join when a peace agreement is reached between Israel and the Palestinians and the party’s votes are required to pass it. They said the preconditions would hinder the effort to achieve peace rather than help it.
Labor faction chairman Isaac Herzog said he especially did not like Yacimovich’s invitation to the Americans to impose a plan on the Israelis and Palestinians.
“Let’s first give a chance for the two sides to agree before we invite an international plan,” Herzog said. “It is premature to deal with entering the government and setting preconditions is incorrect. We hope there’ll be a breakthrough. If there will be we’ll convene and decide our future. But it would be wrong to topple Netanyahu if there are dramatic developments.”
Labor MK Erel Margalit suggested setting different preconditions for entering a Netanyahu-led government.
He said Labor should insist that Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid not be finance minister and that an economic component be added to peace talks.
“The time has come for Labor to present itself as an alternative to run the country and not as a party that can be dragged into one Netanyahu government or another,” Margalit said.
“To enter and lead the peace process together with the prime minister, Labor must present a new direction for the talks. The peace process requires real content – cooperation between people and an economic plan that will complement the diplomatic plan. Such an alternative is missing in Labor and Labor must lead it. Without such conditions, there is no point in Labor joining the government.”
Labor MK Eitan Cabel said Yacimovich’s comments on entering the government and the diplomatic process were futile.
“Unfortunately we have become irrelevant on the peace process,” Cabel said. “Shelly has only started talking about peace because her advisers told her to. She has no impact on the peace process no matter what she says or does.”
Herzog, Margalit and Cabel have until August 26 to decide whether to run against Yacimovich in the November 21 Labor leadership primary.
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