Shelly Yacimovich and the Divisions of Labor

Yossi Verter
Yossi Verter
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Yossi Verter
Yossi Verter

When Shelly Yacimovich convenes the first post-primary meeting of the Labor Party next week, she'll see a lot of little Shelly Yacimoviches: new, young, radical, opinionated and rebellious would-be MKs. And she won't like what she sees. Who knows better than she what a hard time she'll have with them, just as her predecessor did with her.

Labor's new slate has a healthy mix of veterans and newcomers, men and women, leftists and moderates, Jews and Arabs, defense officials and jurists, protest leaders and journalists. Nevertheless, it's definitely more "leftist" than the old one. Merav Michaeli and Stav Shaffir in the top 10 overshadow more moderate figures like Itzik Shmueli, Erel Margalit and Moshe Mizrahi. The irony is that Michaeli and Shaffir both received fewer votes than Shmueli, but leapfrogged over him because certain slots were reserved for women.

The first conclusion about the new Labor is that, as ever, peace and harmony won't reign there. The candidates had no sooner been chosen than Amir Peretz began aggressively demanding that Yacimovich start giving prominence to diplomatic issues and promise never to join a Likud-led government. The implication: If she doesn't, he'll feel free to burn down the clubhouse.

This has been standard practice in Labor for at least two decades now: A new leader is chosen, and within a year, his colleagues are already placing obstacles in his path.

The second conclusion is that if the chances of Labor joining the next government were slim before the primary, they are now near zero. The new faction is overwhelmingly oppositional in spirit, and one can predict with a high degree of certainty that Yacimovich will be the next leader of the opposition.

Labor's slate represents the socioeconomic left. Yair Lapid's could be called the civic left. And Tzipi Livni's will presumably be the diplomatic left. Yacimovich will endeavor mightily to stick with a socieconomic platform, but many of her colleagues will try to push her onto the diplomatic court.

Now, a few comments on individual candidates. For the third time, MK Isaac Herzog came in first in the primary, making him second only to Yacimovich. That's a blessing for him, but also a curse: People are getting used to seeing him as the king's vizier.

MK Benjamin Ben-Eliezer surprised everyone by placing high on the list. But his sole goal in even running was to be elected as president of the state in 2014. His main rival in that race will presumably be Likud's Reuven Rivlin.

Michaeli and Shaffir are the slate's bad girls. Shaffir is a redhead; that says it all. Michaeli, a journalist (inter alia for Haaretz ), has a history of embarrassing behavior: sitting on the prime minister's desk, baring her breasts on television. One habit she'll have to give up is using Hebrew's feminine form exclusively. If she speaks that way in the legislature, she'll quickly become the joke of the 19th Knesset.

Shelly Yacimovich, left, and Stav Shaffir: Labor's mix of old and new.Credit: Alon Ron

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