|Labor leader Shelly Yechimovich 370 (R).(Photo by: Marc Israel Sellem)|
Where is the alternative in our elections?
Reality Check: If Yacimovich is content in simply remaining in the center, and refuses to rule out joining a Netanyahu-led coalition after January’s elections, then what’s the point of voting for Labor under her leadership?
It’s infuriating. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has had a particularly tough
10 days, but all Labor Party leader Shelly Yacimovich can do is go on Arutz 7
and express her “appreciation” for West Bank settlers as “an ideological
First off, what in God’s name is Yacimovich doing appearing
on the settlers’ radio station in the first place? There can’t be any potential
Labor voters listening to Arutz 7 unless they’re stuck in a taxi with a driver
who refuses to change the station.
And secondly, she was talking to this
station only days after the 17th anniversary of Yitzhak Rabin’s assassination, a
murder that took place due to an atmosphere of incitement whipped up by the
Right, the settlement movement in particular, and in which Arutz 7 played a
prominent role. Yacimovich’s breach of the promise of “we won’t forget or
forgive” Rabin’s murder for the sake of just a few minutes’ airtime is stomach
Moreover, Yacimovich’s cozying up to the Right is pointless;
there are no votes for Labor to be won there. Her belief that people will switch
from the Likud to Labor because of the price of cottage cheese is baseless.
Labor’s most recent election victories were not won on economic issues, but
rather because the Israeli electorate was disgruntled with the go-nowhere
policies of incumbent Likud prime ministers Yitzhak Shamir in 1992 and Netanyahu
INTERESTINGLY, both Shamir and Netanyahu were seen by Israeli
voters at the time as having significantly damaged Israel-US ties. Shamir’s
relations with George Bush senior were notably frosty, highlighted by
then-secretary of state James Baker’s publicly reciting the White House
switchboard’s phone number, and telling Israel: “When you are serious about
peace, call us!” Netanyahu’s relationship with Bill Clinton was similarly poor.
It got off to a rocky start – according to Dennis Ross’ memoirs, Clinton
remarked in bewilderment after his first meeting with Netanyahu, “He thinks he
is the superpower and we are here to do what he requires” – and the relationship
never improved, due both to Netanyahu’s personal character and his determination
to wreck the Oslo process and any attempt to reach an agreement with the
More than a decade later, Netanyahu is once again facing a
second-term Democratic US president who has no fond feelings for the Israeli
premier. Netanyahu’s crass cheerleading for Mitt Romney will long be remembered
in the White House. One of Israel’s most important diplomatic strengths is
Jerusalem’s perceived closeness to Washington, something Netanyahu has
single-handedly and foolishly weakened by placing all his chips on a Romney
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA’S election victory was not the only black
cloud suddenly filling Netanyahu’s horizon over the past week or so. Palestinian
Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas also suddenly popped up to remind the Israeli
public that Netanyahu’s mantra that there is no Palestinian partner is as
incorrect as his belief that a Mormon was about to become America’s next
As well as maintaining that there would never be a third
intifada as long as he was president, and insisting that he believed the second
intifada was a grave mistake on the part of the Palestinians, Abbas also made a
far-reaching personal statement, telling a Channel 2 interviewer that if he was
ever to return to Safed, the town of his birth, it would only be as a tourist
and not as a Palestinian refugee seeking to implement his right of return to the
place from which he was expelled.
“Palestine for me is the 1967 borders
with east Jerusalem as the capital, this is Palestine, I am a refugee, I live in
Ramallah, the West Bank and Gaza is Palestine, everything else is Israel,” Abbas
told Channel 2.
But rather than seeking to build on the Palestinian
leader’s remarks, which sparked demonstrations within the West Bank and Gaza
Strip, Netanyahu preferred to concentrate on Abbas’ comment to Egyptian media
outlet Al-Hayat the following day that those remarks reflected his own personal
opinion and should not be taken as policy and continued to recite his stale
mantra of wanting “direct negotiations without preconditions,” which everybody
knows is diplomatic-speak for doing nothing.
IN HER shameful interview
with Arutz 7, Yacimovich tried to argue that Labor is a centrist party. “Calling
Labor a left-wing party is a historical injustice,” she said. “Labor has always
drawn its power from being a centrist party.”
While she is certainly
correct in saying there have always been hawks and doves in its ranks, over the
past two decades Labor has been the party prepared to break the mold of Israeli
politics and turn leftwards, negotiating the Oslo Accords with the Palestinians
under Rabin and seeking to reach a full peace agreement at Camp David, including
the division of Jerusalem, under Ehud Barak.
If Yacimovich is content in
simply remaining in the center, and refuses to rule out joining a Netanyahu-led
coalition after January’s elections, then what’s the point of voting for Labor
under her leadership? Israel needs an alternative to Netanyahu and, so far, in
cuddling up to Labor’s ideological opponents, Yacimovich is failing to provide
The writer is a former editor-in-chief of The Jerusalem Post.