New Labor leader Yacimovich aims to unify party

"I have a lot in common with Livni, but come election day, we will fight to make Labor the biggest party in this bloc," new Labor leader says.

September 23, 2011 03:27
2 minute read.
Shelly Yacimovich

Shelly Yacimovich_311. (photo credit: LAHAV HARKOV)

Newly elected Labor Party chairwoman Shelly Yacimovich began her first day on the job at the party’s headquarters in Kfar Saba on Thursday by reaching out to defeated rivals MKs Amir Peretz and Isaac Herzog and pledging to fight both Likud and Kadima.

Yacimovich defeated Peretz in Wednesday’s runoff race by 3,435 votes, winning 53.8 percent of the vote compared to Peretz’s 45.5%. The final turnout in the race was 62.1%.

Opinion: Deciding between Shelly and Amir

Her first meetings as Labor leader were with Herzog, who agreed to cooperate with her for the good of the party and with Avishay Braverman, who was the only Labor MK who supported her in the race.

Peretz was the first person who congratulated Yacimovich when he conceded to her close to 1 a.m. on Thursday. The will meet on Monday to try to repair their relationship and see if they can work together, but not before Peretz holds a mass rally on Sunday night to thank his supporters and demonstrate his political strength.

“There is not and was never a chance of another split in the party,” a source close to Peretz said.

“Whether there will be cooperation between Amir and Shelly depends on her. The ball is in her court. We will see.”

Upon entering her new office, which still says Labor chairman in masculine Hebrew near the door, Yacimovich reflected on holding a post that has been held by several prime ministers.

“Behind me are pictures of Rabin and Ben-Gurion and I begin to sit today metaphorically on their chairs,” she said. “The weight of the mission on my shoulders is very clear to me.”

Beginning a fight against opposition leader Tzipi Livni for supremacy of the centerleft bloc, Yacimovich vowed to fight for Labor to be the largest party in the bloc after the next election, and not a satellite of Kadima.

“We intend to present a real alternative in the opposition to the Likud, because there isn’t one now,” she said. “Kadima cannot be considered an opposition, because it doesn’t present an alternative to life as it is here in our country but rather talks in the same capitalist, neo-liberal way that is contrary to Labor’s values.”

In her victory speech, delivered at 2:30 a.m. on Thursday, Yacimovich called upon people across the country to join Labor and eventually return it to power.

“The time has come to rebuild the country with a spirit of justice, equality, responsibility for the people and social democracy,” she said. “We will return to be the party of the country as Labor always was. Labor is more relevant than it ever was.”

Voting in Wednesday’s run-off went largely according to ethnic lines, with Yacimovich winning the kibbutzim, Tel Aviv, Haifa, the Sharon region and Jerusalem sectors, while Peretz won among Arabs and Druse, in the Negev, and in the South.

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