Amir Peretz is not a bad candidate to lead the Labor Party. Peretz is much more serious than his image. He's the most prominent labor leader this country has had. He was a fairly good head of the Histadrut labor federation and an energetic candidate when he ran for the premiership. Behind his signature mustache hides a man with values who is sociable, intelligent and pragmatic. But Peretz's bad mistake when he took on the position of defense minister in 2006 has left a scar. Peretz can't rebuild the Labor Party and breathe new life into it.
Erel Margalit is an interesting candidate to lead the Labor Party. Margalit is a Jerusalem high-tech entrepreneur who learned the tricks of the trade from Teddy Kollek. He's dynamic, contemporary, creative and has vision. Margalit is one of those quality, committed business people who should be in Israeli politics. But it's still too early. Margalit has to integrate into the Labor Party and get to work there before he can compete for the party leadership. Margalit can't yet rebuild the party and breathe new life into it.
Isaac Herzog is a very good candidate to lead the Labor Party. Herzog is a "prince" who has never behaved like one. No other politician practices politics with such great diligence and skill, and with the enthusiasm of a hungry young man. Herzog really and truly deserves it. He's both businesslike and sociable, diplomatic and political, Zionist and a dove. But Herzog doesn't have that special extra something that makes a person a leader. He's all right, very all right, but he doesn't annoy people or excite them. Despite his virtues and advantages, Herzog can't rebuild the Labor Party and breathe new life into it.
This leaves Shelly Yachimovich. MK Shelly Yachimovich. Is she suitable? Is Yachimovich capable of rebuilding the Labor Party?
The answer is complicated. Yachimovich is a person who stirs up confrontations. Sometimes she seems to be too belligerent, too self-righteous, extremist and cruel. Both economic concentrations and the post-Zionist left see her as a real threat.
Indeed, in her six years in the Knesset, Yachimovich has made a number of mistakes. More than once she took a populist stance. More than once she made proposals that didn't make economic sense. She didn't always distinguish between productive capital and exploitive capital. She went after the rich who help build the country the same way she went after the rich who suck the life force out of the country. At the same time, she put too little emphasis on the diplomatic issue. Her criticism of the peace camp made her plenty of enemies.
But Yachimovich has what it takes. She has a worldview, she has a way of putting things, she has something quintessential. She has charisma, courage and leadership qualities. She has the ability to catch on, the strength to work, and political skills. She wasn't invented in a PR office. She's not an empty poster. She knows how to swim in the political mire to get to her destination.
That's why Yachimovich has brought about a conceptual revolution in Israel. That's why she has left her mark on the political-economic map. She has created a new social agenda. She has set up intriguing parliamentary coalitions, initiated 33 new laws that were accepted. Yachimovich has proposed to Israel's salaried workers and young people a stirring socialist Zionist proposal.
A secret survey that was commissioned by one of the large parties shows that the Labor Party's electoral potential under Yachimovich is between 15 and 20 seats. That's not surprising. The Israeli people are tired of the perpetual and pointless fighting between the left and the right. The Israeli people feel that both the oligarchs and the post-Zionists are taking advantage of them. The middle class is being eroded, the working class is being screwed, young people have no chance of getting an apartment. In the face of a state that does not function and a society that is coming apart at the seams, there is no relevant government and no relevant opposition.
Therein lies a great chance for Labor headed by Yachimovich. Yachimovich is far from perfect. She must grow, mature and become more moderate. She must recognize the basic principles of the free market and the facts of life of the 21st century. But at the very, very end, the change will start at Yachimovich. Only Shelly Yachimovich can breathe new life into Labor.