Only Shelly Yachimovich Can Revitalize the Labour Party

Shelly Yachimovich is the woman for this Israeli moment. Yachimovich is the one and only promise of contemporary politics.

Labor MK Shelly Yachimovich is an irritating woman. She irritates the oligarchs of piggish capitalism and the radicals of the post-Zionist left. She irritates the hollow leadership of Kadima and the faded leadership of Labor. She irritates the opinionless with her opinionated ways and she irritates people with no knowledge by her knowledge. She irritates the spineless with her principles. She irritates people because she is not nice.

It's true that Yachimovich is not really nice. She knows how to tear her opponents to pieces. She knows how to practice politics, even in polluted waters. She is not a purist, nor is she patient or tolerant. She is opinionated, critical and belligerent. She is a lone wolf, arrogant and ambitious. But Shelly Yachimovich is the woman for this Israeli moment. Yachimovich is the one and only promise of contemporary politics.

The summer of 2011 was the great summer of protest. It was the summer in which the people stood up and demanded social justice. Shelly Yachimovich stood up years ago in the name of the people and demanded social justice. She spoke the language of protest and did the work of protest before protest was born. She is therefore the one who can now take the energy of the protest, bring it to politics and generate change. She is the only one who can bear the banner of protest and express the values of protest, but also translate them into real political work. The summer's revolution of consciousness still needs a face, a voice and a clear doctrine. Shelly Yachimovich is that face. Shelly Yachimovich has the voice and the doctrine. She politically embodies what happened here during the summer, and what must happen now the summer is over.

The summer of 2011 was also the summer of the Labor Party. The divorce from former Labor chairman Ehud Barak was good for Labor. The social agenda was also good for Labor. So was the late awakening by opposition leader MK Tzipi Livni. The party that was considered dead has been resurrected. It held a membership drive, renewed its institutions and conducted an impressive internal election campaign. It conjured up five worthy candidates to lead it. The party brought itself to a point in which it can be a counterweight to Kadima and a long term alternative to Likud. Shelly Yachimovich has many drawbacks, but only she can realize this potential. Only she can bring home hundreds of thousands who have abandoned Labor. Only she can bring hundreds of thousands of young people to Labor.

People who are not Labor voters and will not be Labor voters are suggesting to Labor that its members vote for Amir Peretz as chairman. But a vote for Peretz will serve only the interests of the Zionist center and the extreme left. It will serve only those who want a small and forlorn Labor Party. People who really love Labor and want a strong party will have to vote for Shelly. Only if the Labor Party elects Shelly Yachimovich tomorrow will it give itself new life and new hope.

Some people criticized Yachimovich for not focusing enough on foreign affairs, for not being dovish enough and for not parroting the cliches of peace. Shelly Yachimovich should not have said what she said about the settlements. It would have been better had she spoken more assertively on diplomatic issues. But if Yachimovich has a real chance to make real peace, she will do so. Precisely because she does not hate settlers, she will do well at evacuating them.

Others fear that Yachimovich will be a dangerous populist. But Yachimovich is a pragmatic person who, in the end, will know how to reconcile social demands with market demands. Her message is a complex one. She says that both to make peace, to bring about social justice and to maintain economic growth, the state must be rebuilt. Both to renew Zionism and to renew social democracy, the state and public spheres must be renewed. At the end of this summer, there is a once in a generation opportunity to do this.

If the energy of the protest is channeled to the Labor Party led by Shelly Yachimovich, we may finally begin dealing with the real problems of society and state. We may begin the long journey toward an Israel that gives the people social justice and a Zionist future.