Labor Party Is Not Yet Ready to Lead Israel, Says New Chair Yachimovich

Yachimovich is the candidate of the young people, the big cities and the kibbutzim, but not of the party's historic leadership, say Labor sources.

MK Shelly Yachimovich, Labor Party chairwoman elect, set out the principles of her leadership at party headquarters in Beit Berl yesterday - and said she did not currently see Labor as a ruling party.

"We can return, as we deserve, to the forefront of the political map, but not immediately. There is no glory in this path; it is long and hard. Together we will plow the long furrow," she said in her victory speech in Beit Berl college's convention hall.

Yachimovich - Moti Milrod - September 2011
Moti Milrod

In the speech, Yachimovich gave credit to the part played in her victory by the summer's social protests. "This was the summer of the Labor Party... in which a party that had been mocked was rejuvenated and connected with the freshest winds blowing in the Israeli street," she said.

When Yachimovich mounted the rostrum in the convention hall at 2:30 A.M. yesterday morning to give her victory speech, only two members of Labor's Knesset faction were in the hall: MK Avishay Braverman, who had supported Yachimovich's campaign, and MK Daniel Ben Simon, who had supported her opponent Amir Peretz, but said he had come as a show of unity. Both left the hall before the new chairwoman finished her speech.

Also present in the hall were outgoing Labor chairman Micha Harish and election committee chairman Ra'anan Cohen. But the absence of many leaders of the party and members of her faction, Labor sources said yesterday, was a symptom of one of the problems with which Yachimovich will have to deal.

Yachimovich was the candidate of the young people, the big cities and the kibbutzim, but not of the party's historic leadership, sources said.

That could also be seen in her opening words to her supporters in her speech: "I won't address you as 'comrades,' because you are a little younger than I am," she said.

Later, Yachimovich made her first significant political statement, calling on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to "offer recognition of a Palestinian state by negotiation. Don't allow a unilateral declaration of a Palestinian state. It's in your hands."

At her new offices in Beit Berl college yesterday, Yachimovich said: "We will present a real alternative to Likud," adding, "Kadima does not constitute opposition because it does not present an alternative, but speaks in the same capitalist neoliberal language."