Israel's 100 Most Influential People / Keeping It Real: Shelly Yacimovich

Focusing on socioeconomic issues, Shelly Yacimovich has turned her once-ailing party around to become a contender in the next elections.

Last year was the best ever in Shelly Yacimovich's political career. Whereas in the summer of 2011 she was a prominent and effective, but not extraordinary, Knesset member of a disintegrating party, she now securely heads what polls indicate will be the second largest party following elections. She enjoys a growing popularity and influence over the Israeli public. While her chances are currently slim, she has positioned herself as the only viable alternative to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. She has given many people hope for a fresh start and optimistic leadership that will bring new ideas to address citizens' concerns and take active steps to bring about systemic reforms.

In contrast to other politicians, she has ignored the Palestinian issue, which has long been the focus of media attention, and has chosen to deal with socioeconomic issues instead. And as opposed to the MKs that only took up these issues after they hit the headlines, she had already studied them in depth and gained knowledge and confidence. When public attention in Israel and the world shifted to the socioeconomic sphere, she was already there, ready to rake in the votes.

Her public support can be attributed to the path she chose. She became leader of the Labor Party after the social protest demonstrations. Yacimovich, more than other politicians, is closely identified with the protest messages. Even when the protests subsided, she continued to gather strength, at the expense of the collapsing Kadima party. From polls giving Labor six seats when Ehud Barak bolted the party, current polls predict that after the next elections she will head a bloc of 20-24 seats.

Yacimovich, a former journalist, is media-savvy and capable of generating headlines. She is sophisticated and hard-working, totally committed to her agenda. She counts on attracting disgruntled voters from Likud and other centrist parties, considering leftist voters in her pocket. She is devoting considerable effort to reconstructing the Labor Party and has recruited many volunteers.

Although she didn't expect it when embarking on her public career, Yacimovich now considers herself ready to serve as prime minister. She is largely responsible for changing the public into a more ideological debate and has already become the most influential woman in Israel since the 1970s.