The Two Faces of Zionist Union MK Shelly Yacimovich

Yacimovich brands a government official a traitor for not backing his boss, then attacks her own leader for his policies. And that’s only the start of her hypocrisy.

Nehemia Shtrasler
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MK Shelly Yacimovich (Zionist Union) during a Knesset Education Committee meeting, December 2015.
Zionist Union MK Shelly Yacimovich during a Knesset Education Committee meeting, December 2015. Credit: Olivier Fitoussi
Nehemia Shtrasler

There is no contesting Shelly Yacimovich’s good heart. A few days ago, advocate Ori Schwartz had occasion to feel it. Barely had he heard the news that he hadn’t been chosen to be Israel’s next antitrust commissioner than the Zionist Union MK pounced. She did not wait, she did not check, she showed no compassion. Immediately upon the announcement that Michal Halperin had been tapped, Yacimovich tweeted, “Schwartz’s betrayal of David Gilo did not serve him: Halperin got the job.” (Gilo being the last antitrust commissioner, who stepped down in May 2015; Schwartz had served as acting commissioner.)

Thus, a senior, professional public official doing his work in good faith is turned into a traitor, no less. The sentence for treason is death, at least in public.

Schwartz, the legal counsel to the Antitrust Authority, is a decent, honest professional. He was dubbed a traitor because he didn’t line up with Yacimovich and his former boss, Gilo: Schwartz thought the gas plan was good for Israel. That’s his frightful crime. And he can’t even sue Yacimovich for libel.

This week, the OECD published a report saying the gas plan is a correct, good compromise and should be implemented. As a result, the organization found itself among the traitors in Yacimovich’s books. I’m on the list too, as is the Antitrust Authority’s chief economist, Dr. Assaf Eilat, who thinks in his cupidity that the gas plan is a good one. As does Schwartz.

But if one isn’t allowed to disagree with the boss, how can it be that a brutal attack on the chairman of your party is permissible? Yacimovich recently accused Isaac Herzog of eyeing Benjamin Netanyahu and the right of the political map, though he denies it. She claimed he’d abandoned his commitment to the two-state solution, though that isn’t true either. As far as she’s concerned, it is legitimate to attack the party chairman. That is not treason. That’s just sticking a long knife in the leader’s back, and turning it.

But the zenith is the content of her criticism. Suddenly, Yacimovich has become the standard-bearer for diplomacy. Suddenly she is discussing the “central ethos of the Labor Party” which is ... the two-state solution. Central ethos? Does she think us that stupid?

Don’t forget she had a golden opportunity to raise that ethos when running for the chairmanship of the Labor Party against Amir Peretz in 2011. Then, throughout the 2013 campaign, Yacimovich took the diplomatic issue off the table – she didn’t say a word about it. No ethos, no nothing.

She hurt and scorned everybody who tried to talk about the tight correlation between the occupation and the settlements and the socioeconomic state. In a long interview with Gidi Weitz in Haaretz (August 19, 2011), she said, “I certainly do not see the settlement project as a sin and a crime.”

She didn’t mention the word “peace” so much as once during that long interview. And no wonder. Her best friends are two extremist Likud members – Gideon Sa’ar (currently on a break from party affairs) and Haim Katz, who evidently taught her what’s what.

At the time, Yacimovich stated firmly – just like Netanyahu and Naftali Bennett – that there’s no connection between the billions going to the settlements and the social gaps and poverty within Israel. She didn’t even understand what Yitzhak Rabin was doing when, in 1992, he cut the budget for the settlements and transferred the money to education, welfare, wages and infrastructure, which led to considerable social improvement.

She contemptuously dubbed the courageous people demonstrating against the occupation week in and week out “a group that would barely fill a phone booth in Bil’in” (a West Bank village).

She doesn’t even understand that she isn’t a socialist. A socialist cannot ignore injustice, the appropriation of land and the daily abuse of the Palestinians. They cannot morally accept the situation that the settlers are planting olive trees on stolen land and making olive oil that Yacimovich happily buys – she said so herself in that interview: “I am not in favor of boycotts.”

So if she’s in favor of the beloved settlements, what exactly are diplomatic negotiations supposed to be about? How to handle traitors?