Yacimovich victory shows what voters really care about

Just when you’d expect diplomatic issues to top the agenda, the party most closely identified with the peace process elected a leader who prioritizes domestic issues. Will other politicians get the message?

By
September 27, 2011 14:42
Newly elected Labor leader Shelly Yacimovich

Shelly Yacimovich at Labor HQ 311. (photo credit: Gil Hoffman)

 
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Israeli voters sent their politicians a remarkable message last week. At a moment when one would expect diplomatic and security issues to top the public agenda – with the UN poised to recognize a Palestinian state, peace with Egypt looking shakier than it has in 30 years and turmoil engulfing Syria – members of a major political party decided their new leader should be someone who unabashedly prioritizes domestic issues over foreign policy. Even more remarkably, this choice was made by a bastion of Israel’s left, the party that brought us the Oslo Accords, whose flagship cause for the last two decades has been the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

By choosing MK Shelly Yacimovich as their new leader, Labor Party members sent an unequivocal message that they are tired of this order of priorities. Clearly, they weren’t saying diplomatic-security issues should be ignored. But for years, successive Israeli governments have focused on diplomatic-security issues to the virtual exclusion of domestic ones. This neglect has enabled domestic problems to balloon and multiply, which in turn led to the eruption of the summer’s massive socioeconomic protests. And now, even members of Israel self-proclaimed “peace camp” have had enough: They want a leader who understands, as Yacimovich once wrote, that “before we … engage in a struggle for peace, we need to have a state.”

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