Last Friday’s Haaretz
magazine carried a lengthy interview with MK Shelly
Yacimovich. In it, Yacimovich detailed her opposition to excessive
privatization, personified by the tycoons, and her belief that the Jewish
settlement enterprise in Judea and Samaria is “neither a sin nor a crime” since
it was originally based on a widespread consensus that included the Labor Party,
and is not to blame for the shortage of resources to relieve social injustices
The unusual combination of a social-democratic position on
one issue, and a pro-settler position on another resulted in a good deal of
criticism from friends and foes alike. However, the truth is that Yacimovich is
not alone in holding a medley of positions that do not necessarily tally with
each other – at least not in traditional ideological terms.
one of Yacimovich’s most vociferous critics, the economic commentator Nehemia
Strassler, is an outspoken dove when it comes to the future of the territories
and the Jewish settlements, but advocates a free economy and minimal government
intervention – on the surface a complete mirror image of Yacimovich’s positions.
Ironically, both Yacimovich and Strassler are identified as lefties by the
Right. If one adds further issues to the equation – such as religion and state,
the status of minorities, or that of foreign workers and refugees – one would
discover that there is an infinite number of combinations.
While I agree
with Yacimovich on some issues and disagree on others, I think there is a lot of
hypocrisy in the attacks on her. All the positions she expressed in her
interview are legitimate, though whether they add up to a coherent
social-democratic ideology, as she claims, is not at all certain. This is
relevant since Yacimovich is a leading contestant in the approaching Labor Party
leadership contest, and the registered members of the party, who will be voting
in the primaries on September 12, will have to decide, on the basis of what she
said in the interview, as well as what she failed to talk about – such as the
status of the country’s Arab citizens, and the peace process – whether this is
really the direction they would like to see the party take.
Yacimovich’s admirers support her because of her clear positions on social and
economic issues, and her incredible track record as an MK in the past five years
– especially the numerous social bills she authored. But is this enough?
is more to leading a party than holding positions popular with the majority of
party members, and being a superb MK. As a matter of fact, most party leaders
have been pretty mediocre MKs. The question is also whether the potential leader
has organizational and administrative experience (Yacimovich has none), whether
he/she is able to contend in a balanced and meaningful manner with the rapid
succession of issues on the national agenda, and last but not least, whether
he/she is able to attract voters who are not traditional voters for the party.
On this last point, Yacimovich’s interview might turn out to be an asset if she
is elected as Labor’s next leader.
Personally I prefer what Amram Mizna
has to offer. As mayor of Haifa and as acting mayor of Yeroham, he proved his
commitment to public welfare in general and education in
particular. While advocating a change in the country’s socioeconomic
priorities, he is aware that a declaration of war on the tycoons could be
counterproductive. His 30-year service in the IDF, reaching the rank of
major-general, resulted in his intimate familiarity with the country’s security
concerns, with the security implications of the continued occupation of the
territories, as well as with the potential dangers inherent in the two-state
solution, of which he is an active advocate.
Unlike Yacimovich, Mizna has
a wealth of experience in organization and administration, his reactions to the
succession of issues that made headlines in recent months – including the social
protest and the recent security events in the South – have been sensitive,
measured and in keeping with his general positions. But most important of all,
opinion polls show that among all the candidates for the Labor Party leadership,
he is most likely to maximize Labor’s electoral potential.
The writer is
a member of the Labor Party, and is currently engaged in research and lecturing
on the Knesset.