Analysis

Something Is Rotten in the State of the Israeli Labor Party

In 1990, the party attempted the 'stinking maneuver' to get out of a unity government. A new plot to unseat Chairman Isaac Herzog reeks just as badly.

Labor lawmakers Shelly Yacimovich, Isaac Herzog and Eitan Cabel.
Ofer Vaknin

Under the most basic rules (even the most lenient), Eitan Cabel’s political career probably came to an end Thursday, judging by how he sounded in the secret recordings heard on Channels 2 and 10.

The time has come for him to retire. The term “shady deal” used by Labor Party Chairman Isaac Herzog, apparently just to rub it in to describe what was revealed in the tape, was actually an understatement.

According to Cabel’s recorded remarks, he made a deal with fellow Labor Party lawmaker Shelly Yacimovich that he would put his Histadrut labor federation faction in her hands, to help her campaign to become the new union leader, while she in turn would support his potential bid to become Labor Party chief.

From the outside, such an arrangement seemed plausible. But there were sweeping denials by both politicians and there was no evidence. Until the telltale recording, that is, which caught the culprit red-handed.

It’s amazing, though, that even after Thursday’s broadcast of the tape, Cabel and Yacimovich continued to deny it – even though the stinking pile of evidence was lying right in front of us, with flies buzzing around it.

Cabel and Yacimovich forged decent careers – his lasted twice as long as hers – on the political foundations of credibility, cleanliness and forthright values. But from the moment they embarked on their joint path to conquer the Histadrut, we sensed their association was strange, deceptive and that there was more to it than met the eye. And now the cat is out of the bag.

Those taped monologues of Cabel’s behind-closed-doors meeting with Histadrut faction members have tarred him with all the negative stereotypes that can stick to a politician: that he’s cynical, devoid of ideology, ruthless and coarse (it’s also quite unbelievable how nave – or stupid – he could be after two decades in politics). He will no longer be able to vie for the leadership of the Labor Party – his great dream, as he once put it. If he did run, he'd be sure to face a stunning defeat.

Yacimovich has also sustained some damage, perhaps less so than Cabel, but it’s not yet clear to what extent. Despite her popularity among the public, her attempts to win the Histadrut leadership against the incumbent, Avi Nissenkorn – as dull as he is – were never going to be a walk in the park.

Now, given the new circumstances, she will appear even more like the sweating Sisyphean candidate on the hilltop, a knotted rope binding her feet together.