On Sunday night, I attended Hapoel Jerusalem’s annual match against its archrival Maccabi Tel Aviv (we lost again, don’t ask). In the capital’s Malha basketball arena - one of the last remaining bastions of the city's old left-wing – during half-time, when hundreds gathered in the tiny open-air enclosure for an anxious smoke, the talk was mainly about one subject: "Why is [Labor leader] Shelly Yacimovich so ashamed of being called a leftist?"
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If the mood at the match was anything to go by, Yacimovich's announcement last Thursday that she would not join Benjamin Netanyahu's coalition after the election, come what may, had made little impression on Labor's veteran supporters, disillusioned with her constant attempts lately to distance the party from its leftist and peacenik traditions.
Many of them are still not decided on whom to vote for. Two men – hi-tech entrepreneur Erel Margalit and social activist Hili Tropper, both Hapoel fans and Labor candidates - spent part of the game trying to win their reluctant fellow Laborites back. Margalit seemed much calmer and happier, with good reason: As number ten on the list, his seat in the next Knesset is secure, but Tropper, on the 23rd spot, will most likely have to go back to his old job as a school principal.
The Hapoel Jerusalem crowd aren't the only voters Yacimovich has failed to convince. The latest poll published on Monday by Channel 10, carried out by Professor Camil Fuchs (who is also Haaretz's pollster), Labor is still stuck on 17 seats. Her only reasonable option to regain the momentum is to abandon her hopes of enticing hard-working Likud voters to turn their back on arch-capitalist Benjamin Netanyahu and support her new social charter, and try and regain those who would never vote for Likud but have also lost faith in Labor.
That is why the much-heralded summit of the three leaders of the center-left parties that also took place on Sunday night was destined to fail. Yacimovich could not have turned down Tzipi Livni's invitation to meet, which she issued on prime-time television last Friday, but the chances of them actually agreeing on a joint strategy for the day after the elections are next to nil. Yair Lapid, who together with Yacimovich denounced Livni for calling a meeting knowing that would be "devoid of content," doesn't threaten Yacimovich. His voters are the type of middle-class Israelis who believe the Labor leader is a dangerous socialist.
But Livni's return to politics, less than two months ago, was the start of Labor's decline in the polls. Just like two of the party's former leaders, Amram Mitzna and Amir Peretz, joined Livni's Hatnuah, citing Yacimovich's refusal to focus on the peace process, so have multitudes of Israelis who otherwise would probably have voted Labor.
Lapid also has little interest in coordinating his strategy with the other centrist leaders. He left a lucrative media career to be a minister in the next government and he won't let anyone else decide for him.
And what about Livni - was she sincere in her attempt to unify "the bloc"? In every interview she repeats the mantra that she could have formed her own government or joined Netanyahu's coalition but preferred not to compromise her principles and remained in opposition.
That is true, but if she really wanted to bolster the anti-Netanyahu opposition, splitting it further by founding yet another party is the worst way to do it.