Coalition Crisis | Analysis |

Shelly Yacimovich Is the ultra-Orthodox Parties’ Last Hope

Without the Labor Party leader, Israel's Haredi parties are doomed to the hell of opposition.

Yossi Verter
Yossi Verter
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Yossi Verter
Yossi Verter

In a house on Jerusalem’s Hakablan Street, an elderly, ailing and sorrowful rabbi has been urging those around him, “Take me to her.” For a week, they say, he has begged them to arrange a meeting with Labor Party leader Shelly Yacimovich. At first, he asked for her to come to him. Now, Rabbi Ovadia Yosef is willing to abandon his dignity and go to her.

His associates gently try to explain that meeting with him wouldn’t exactly strengthen Yacimovich’s status in her own party. Moreover, such a meeting − which could once move mountains, forge coalitions and topple governments − no longer has the power to work the miracle for which he prays: pushing her into the government.

Yacimovich has become the Haredi ‏(ultra-Orthodox‏) parties’ last hope. Without her, they are doomed to the hell of opposition. But she continues to hold firm. “Our decision is final,” she told her party’s MKs on Monday. We’re preparing with full force to be an effective, fighting opposition.”

The Haredim found a crumb of comfort in the fact that even Monday, after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu officially bid good-bye to Shas leaders Aryeh Deri, Eli Yishai and Ariel Atias, coalition negotiations between his party and Yesh Atid have yet to resume.

“Maybe something is nevertheless brewing with Shelly behind the scenes?” one Shas official suggested hopefully. But Yacimovich spent yesterday in the Knesset plenum, not meeting with Netanyahu. So what exactly is brewing? And with whom?

Those same questions, tinged with suspicion, could be heard from Yesh Atid MKs. “What exactly is Netanyahu waiting for?” asked one. “The last second?”

The general bewilderment was evident in the Knesset yesterday, when Yesh Atid MKs Yair Lapid and Jacob Perry asked Deri if he knew anything. Deri promptly asked them the same question.

Haredi MKs actually offered very detailed explanations of what has happened since the election, but all shared the same bottom line: Netanyahu failed completely. At numerous key junctures during the coalition talks, he could have acted differently, but he repeatedly failed to seize the moment.

He didn’t act boldly when boldness was needed ‏(for instance, when he could have set up a government of 57 MKs with the Haredim, Hatnuah and Kadima and thereby pushed Habayit Hayehudi leader Naftali Bennett into a corner‏), and he wasn’t conciliatory when conciliation was needed ‏(to woo that same Bennett‏).

If he is now forced to form a government with partners he neither likes nor trusts, he has no one to blame but himself.

Labor party chief Shelly Yacimovich attending the annual rally in memory of slain prime minister Yitzhak Rabin, October 27, 2012.Credit: Ofer Vaknin

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