Quo vadis, Labor? Vote for Buji

The Labor party has played a crucial role in establishing the State of Israel and in shaping, for decades, its society and policies.

By COLETTE AVITAL
November 19, 2013 22:21
3 minute read.
MK Isaac Herzog.

MK Isaac Herzog 370. (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)

The Labor party has played a crucial role in establishing the State of Israel and in shaping, for decades, its society and policies.

Elections for the leadership of this party, due to take place later this week, are important far beyond the personalities of the competing leaders – their result may change the political map of the country and have an impact on all future government decisions.

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Competing for the leadership are two representatives of the younger generation whose worldviews and personalities are very different.

Shelly Yacimovich is a former journalist who made her debut in politics some eight years ago and is the current leader of Labor. Isaac (Buji) Herzog, a lawyer by profession, comes from a family with a rich tradition of service to the country. Herzog’s late grandfather was chief rabbi of Palestine and his late father was ambassador to the UN and later president of Israel.

Herzog started his career as government secretary in 1999 and has had an active and brilliant political career ever since.

Even though sharing a common platform in the Labor party, their views could not be more diametrically opposed. Yacimovich describes herself as a social democrat (even though some take issue with this definition). Herzog’s social and economic views may be defined as “constructive socialism” – a term coined many years ago by one of the founding fathers of Labor, Berl Katznelson, meaning a brand of socialism that cares for the working class while simultaneously building the nation, its economy and its institutions.

Hers is a reduced, lacking brand of socialism far removed from the Nordic model: no welfare services for the whole society, no safety net, no flexibility of the job market, no reform of the social services, rather a preference for organized labor, mainly the strong workers’ committees. Those views have alienated leading businesses from the party.

Herzog fully understands the connection between the personal and the national, between social welfare, economic growth and flexible markets.

He fully understands the connection between economy and peace.

During her term of duty as head of the party, Yacimovich has shied away from any debate, any reference to foreign affairs, security or the peace process with the Palestinians – issues she simply does not care about.

Leading a one-dimentional policy based on Israel’s economy, she not only brought about the departure of many from the Labor party, losing at least three mandates in the last elections; her political autism actually cast serious doubt on her capacity to become the prime minister of Israel.

And even though she has been an active, eloquent opponent of the government, Yacimovich has never presented a coherent, complete and relevant plan that could be considered a serious alternative to its policies. At most, these have been good speeches with little substance and unrelated, haphazard ideas.

By comparison, Herzog brings with him a coherent plan, both in the economic and political spheres, which he has fostered with the help and advice of qualified professionals in all disciplines.

His record as an actor on the political scene, as a “doer,” is impressive.

His achievements in his various ministerial posts are well known.

Should he be elected chairman, he will bring back numerous voters to the party.

His will be a voice of moderation and sanity. He will generate hope. Moreover, under his leadership, Labor will come up with new ideas, new initiatives – allowing the public a real choice.

The “face” Labor will present to the public during the next elections is important not only for that party, it is carries weight for Israeli democracy and for the future of the country. Its success will depend on the capacity of that old and respected party to present a real alternative to the actual ruling coalition by shaping a coherent, comprehensive policy plan.

It will depend on the quality of its leadership.

Isaac Herzog can deliver both.

Colette Avital is a former diplomat and Labor party member of Knesset.


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