Selling the wrong goods
While the Labor Party is busy marketing social democracy to the masses, Netanyahu is dictating the election's agenda: Iran and Middle East peace. The silence surrounding Yacimovich on the Palestinians is an embarrassment.
Someone in the Labor Party has made a mistaken working assumption. The nation indeed demands social justice but an election campaign has rules of its own.The expiry date of the social agenda is drawing near. The American pollster Stanley Greenberg, Labor's adviser Shalom Kital, and senior party activist Isaac Herzog should forgive me for saying this: It is not Labor Party leader Shelly Yacimovich who will decide the agenda of the election campaign. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will do that. He himself may be the one to shoot down Labor's agenda if others don't. He has already started doing so in the last few days. The Iranian threat and the Palestinians are back on the agenda and they are here to stay. And in Labor? In Labor they are busy marketing social democracy to the masses.
Yacimovich's fans consider her the best possible chairperson. She is on the ball, focused, ambitious and will go far. And in particular, she is an alternative therapist who has brought about a medical miracle - she pumped the social protest movement into the veins of the Labor Party, revived a dying party and sent the Knesset members on her list on a shared holiday at the Monastery of Silence [in Latrun]. Yacimovich and her party do have things to be proud of. They have returned to the premier league in the surveys, they are competing for a place at the top, and they are unified ideologically.
The silence surrounding Yacimovich is an embarrassment, however. It has been a long time since we saw so many keeping so mum. Here and there Herzog is interviewed in a studio. For a brief moment, a star appears (Stav Shaffir or Itzik Shmuli of the protest movement, Nahman Shai who left Kadima); it twinkles and then returns to orbit - the orbit around Yacimovich. From the Labor Party - once a center-left Zionist movement - and its leader, you will not hear a word about the Middle East, about peace, security, what's happening in the territories, about violence, racism, or an attack against Iran. There is no diplomatic horizon and no diplomatic plan.
That's how things are when you wear your new social-democratic garb. There have indeed been a few words recently from Yacimovich about the Palestinians. She told the French president that the way back to negotiations with them passes through "Palestinian recognition of Israel as a Jewish democratic state," and in thus doing, she adopted the pre-condition of the Netanyahu school of thought. In her Knesset speech during a memorial session in honor of slain prime minister Yitzhak Rabin, she shouted at Speaker Reuven Rivlin: "Who wants to live in a bi-national state?" And this week, in a Channel 2 interview, she gave Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas a grade of "satisfactory" for opposing a third intifada. "That is not so little from someone who doesn't consider the settlement enterprise a sin and crime," said a veteran Laborite to me this week. "She has an aggressiveness that is positive but the idea of currying favor with the right is lethal. In a race of that kind, Netanyahu will always get the upper hand."
In the past few days, Arthur Finkelstein, one of those who thought up the Likud Beitenu joint slate, promised that Mitt Romney would win the American presidential elections. That's over. Now Netanyahu will be forced to continue maneuvering opposite Barack Obama, and to thank his lucky stars that in the Israeli elections he will have to face the social-democratic tiger that Labor is riding. It is a paper tiger.
Perhaps Yacimovich is not worried who the next prime minister will be. Perhaps Yair Lapid, the Yesh Atid leader, is also not concerned. And if they are not worried, then that is what is truly worrisome, to say nothing of frightening. Take note, Tzipi Livni and Ehud Olmert, and let the president hear. Not Obama. Shimon Peres.