Yacimovich: Labor Would Rather Lead Opposition Than Join Netanyahu Coalition

Labor sources say such a move was inevitable, as Netanyahu is banking on forming a strong right-wing coalition of which a center-left party could not be a part.

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Labor Chairwoman Shelly Yacimovich announced Thursday morning that she would not join a coalition government headed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Likud-Beiteinu, preferring to serve as the leader of the next Knesset opposition.

Current and potential Knesset members from Labor welcomed Yacimovich's decision. "In light of the radicalization of Likud-Beiteinu, there are only two possible paths to take after the elections," they said. "Either forming a coalition led by Yacimovich, or, if the public chooses otherwise, leading the opposition."

The party released an official statement declaring: "The Labor Party is determined to change the regime, and will make every effort to lead a coalition that provides an alternative to the extreme right-wing government and show the Israeli public that there is another option."

Labor Party sources said following Yacimovich's announcement that such a move had been inevitable. "Yacimovich understood that there was no way she could join a Likud-Beiteinu government," they said.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has recently been entertaining the idea of bringing the Labor party into the coalition instead of Naftali Bennett's Habayit Hayehudi, they added, but the latter's rising popularity in pre-election polls has made it key to the right-wing's quest to gain the 61 seats necessary for forming a coalition.

For the latest polls and updates, visit Haaretz's Israeli elections 2013 page

A poll conducted Monday found that Labor would win 16 seats if elections were held today, one seat less than in the last poll.

The Likud-Beiteinu slate is also continuing to weaken, according to Monday's poll: If the election were held today, it would win only 34 seats, down one from the previous poll. In contrast, the right-wing Habayit Hayehudi party continues to soar, chalking up a projected 14 seats. At this rate, it could end up as the Knesset's second largest party after Election Day.

The poll still shows Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu continuing in office. The bloc consisting of Likud-Yisrael Beiteinu, the parties to its right and the ultra-Orthodox parties comes to 67 seats. This includes Otzma Leyisrael, led by MKs Aryeh Eldad and Michael Ben Ari, who seem poised to just make it into the Knesset with two seats.

The center-left bloc would number 53 seats, including 12 lawmakers from the Arab parties, according to Monday's poll.

The poll was conducted for Haaretz by Dialog under the supervision of Prof. Camil Fuchs of Tel Aviv University's Statistics Department.

Labor Party chief Shelly Yacimovich answering readers' questions at Haaretz on January 13, 2013.Credit: Haim Taragan