New Labor leader Yacimovich: Time has come for change

Yacimovich defeats former mentor Peretz by 9% in run-off race, during victory speech calls on PM to fill UN speech with words of truth.

Shelly Yacimovich at Labor HQ 311 (photo credit: Gil Hoffman)
Shelly Yacimovich at Labor HQ 311
(photo credit: Gil Hoffman)
New-elected Labor party leader MK Shelly Yacimovich said overnight Wednesday that "the time has come to rebuild the country with a spirit of justice, equality, responsibility for the people and social democracy."
During a victory speech at the party's headquarters at Beit Berl Teachers' College in Kfar Saba she said "We will return to be the party of the country as Labor always was. Labor is more relevant than it ever was."
Labor primary votes being tallied as polls close
Deciding between Shelly and Amir
The Labor party elected its first female leader since Golda Meir when Yacimovich bested her former mentor, MK Amir Peretz, in a run-off race for the party's chairmanship.
Yacimovich won handily by nine percentage points over Peretz. Although not all the votes were tallied, not enough ballots remained for Peretz to make up the differences.
Yacimovich told supporters that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Opposition Leader Tzipi Livni (Kadima) had called to congratulate her. When she informed them that Defense Minister Ehud Barak had called too, the news was met with boos and jeers from the crowd.
She called on Netanyahu not just to make a glossy speech at the UN on Thursday but to fill the speech with words of truth.
Yacimovich said that the prime minister should call for a Palestinian state side by side with Israel in negotiations. "Don't let the state be declared unilaterally. It's in your hands to prevent it," she said.
The large group of young supporters who wore red t-shirts cheered as she said that the party that was eulogized and made fun of now connected with the most up-to-date spirit spreading throughout the country.
"We can return to the forefront of Israeli politics," she said. "It will be a long road."
Yacimovich thanked Amir Peretz for being first to call. "I am sure we will be able to continue working side by side," she added.
She reiterated a number of times that the Labor party was the one that built the state and said that had come to rebuild the state of Israel with a focus on justice and equality with no discrimination between race, gender or religion.
Yacimovich's victory came after a contentious election which saw the candidates launching personal attacks and claims of impropriety against one another.
On Wednesday, election observers representing Peretz refused to remain at four polling stations while votes were counted, but Labor's election committee did not disqualify the votes there.