Disagreement Over Settlements Surface in Labor Party Race

MK Shelly Yachimovich being criticized for denying "the settlement enterprise as a sin and a crime," in an interview that ran in Thursday's Haaretz.

MK Shelly Yachimovich, who is running for the Labor Party leadership, drew fire from her rivals and party activists after saying she does not see the settlements as "a crime."

"I certainly do not see the settlement enterprise as a sin and a crime," Yachimovich said in an interview, an excerpt of which ran in Thursday's Haaretz. In its time it was a completely consensual move. And it was the Labor Party that founded the settlement enterprise in the territories. That is a fact."

Shelly Yachimovich
Moti Milrod

In the past Yachimovich had castigated the settlements. In an interview in 2005 to Haaretz's Nehemia Shtrasler she blasted the state investment in the settlements over the years. "While the welfare state was being wiped out, while the investments in periphery townships stopped, an alternative welfare state was being established across the Green Line," she said.

MK Amir Peretz, also a Labor leadership candidate, said "the settlers aren't sinners; they were sent by Israel's governments. But Labor must say clearly: The settlement project is an injustice to Israeli society, to the underprivileged neighborhoods and towns in the periphery, which are the real Zionist goal."

Leadership candidate MK Isaac Herzog said on Israel Radio: "Yachimovich's position is not part of Labor's world view. If you want to run the party you must have opinions on state affairs and the peace issue."

Businessman Erel Margalit, another candidate, said by "aligning herself with the settlements she has betrayed the party's ideology."

Young Labor activists yesterday launched a protest campaign against Yachimovich's statements. Peace Now secretary general Yariv Oppenheimer said that to advance social issues, Yachimovich was supporting the settlements and cooperating with extreme rightist parties.