Opinion

Young Israeli Labor Star’s ‘New Beginning’ Plays With the Facts

Labor MK Stav Shaffir.
Moti Milrod

Labor MK Stav Shaffir has been promising to rebuild her party. She’ll put the “democratic camp” on the march to the future, without behind-the-scenes intrigues or wheeling and dealing.

Shaffir is calling for an open primary, to open the party to the public and attract the younger generation. She has appointed herself head of the campaign and wants to recruit people who have been working outside politics. The primary campaign is expected to convey freshness, vitality and energy. On a poster next to her picture will be the words “A new beginning.” At the beginning of the month Shaffir probably didn’t imagine a better scenario.

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On May 29 at 2:45 P.M., Shaffir met with Labor Party Chairman Avi Gabbay. He told her that Benjamin Netanyahu had proposed that the party enter his government in exchange for a “package to protect democracy” and of course ministerial portfolios. Shaffir was offered the Communications Ministry, which the prime minister had used in the past to put pressure on Avigdor Lieberman.

She was afraid – as were her party colleagues Shelly Yacimovich and Itzik Shmuli, with whom Gabbay had spoken beforehand, that this wasn’t aboveboard. At 5:59 P.M. Shaffir told the Knesset: “Everyone’s afraid to say ‘enough. Set boundaries. Lines in the sand.’”

But if she was determined, there was no reason for her to have a second meeting with Gabbay about entering the government, because there was nothing to talk about. But half an hour later such a meeting took place. Shaffir said that more had to be demanded from Netanyahu in negotiations, including the justice and education ministries, an amendment to the nation-state law, and perhaps they should even say so in public.

In any case, while the two were talking, at 6:59 P.M., Channel 12’s Amit Segal reported on the negotiations and things blew up. Shaffir’s first response came at 7:33 P.M.: “Hours before the deadline to form a government, Netanyahu is busy with spin and trying to buy time,” she tweeted. “He thinks that everybody is about to cave … but that won’t happen.”

In the following days, when she realized that her involvement in the affair wasn’t yet known, she would claim: “I refused and was utterly opposed” and “I was shocked and pained to see that some of my colleagues cooperated.” Sources in the Labor Party said they too were shocked – at her ability to lie so brazenly to the public.

A politician who wants to succeed needs a measure of Machiavellian skill, but Shaffir deserves special commendation. She considered the proposal, presented demands, and at most hadn’t yet refused. She told her voters other facts. It seems that she not only maneuvered a bit, giving the story a better angle politically, but that she lied. Her willingness to do this marks her as a politician who doesn’t hesitate to come out with a fabrication to save her skin.

We all have moments we’re not proud of, but it’s disturbing that Shaffir, the knight in shining armor of transparency, presents herself as the perfect candidate for the new beginning the party needs. And she does this without any soul-searching over her part in the negotiations and while taking advantage of the public image she has rightfully built for herself.

It seems that the call for “a new beginning” has even more meaning. Not only does Shaffir want to take the party on a new path, she wants to take herself far away from the recent events. The next morning, in an interview on Channel 12, Nesli Barda said Shaffir was perceived as a Knesset member who was “not yet contaminated.”

And Shaffir insisted: “And I won’t become contaminated, and that’s not true of all politicians.” You have to wonder what crossed her mind when she said that.