Sweden's Welfare Minister

In Sweden, Shelly Yachimovich could serve as minister of welfare. Unfortunately, this is not Sweden.

It's a sad scene within the Labor party: Everyone is fed up with Ehud Barak and there is no point in reiterating how pathetic the other ministers are; Amir Peretz was destroyed (primarily ) because of his ethnic origin; and even the secretary general Weizmann Shiri is no longer with us. Among this dearth, only one figure with the potential to instill some life into this wallowing corpse stands out: Shelly Yachimovich. A parliamentary success story of a unique, courageous (to a certain extent ) and honest individual with an actual agenda.

But Yachimovich is waiting. Though she dedicates herself to issues of paramount importance, her future options are limited. Had she been living in Sweden, she could have been elected leader of the social-democrats or served as minister of welfare. Unfortunately, this is not Sweden. Yachimovich is working in a place where social struggle can serve only one purpose, significant and essential, but it should not be the only purpose.

barak - Amos Biderman - October 17 2010
Amos Biderman

Her personal website is full of commendable activity. She is fighting incessantly against the concentration of capital, and against the tycoons; she is fighting for the workers, the unemployed, the children, the women, the foreigners, the elderly, the Holocaust survivors, the homeless, the surrogate mothers, and those who rent apartments. She serves not only as a mouthpiece for the socially suppressed and the dispossessed, she is also an effective legislator.

Yachimovich has an ordered worldview, both social-democratic and humane, a rare commodity in the Knesset. She also deals in areas which the Zionist left has excluded itself from for many years. All this is very impressive, but not enough. The list of her activities is nearly void of other fields and her resounding silence is troubling: Where is her fight for democracy, for peace and against the occupation?

In 2010 Israel, an occupying country, one cannot be a social-democrat while ignoring the absolute absence of social rights and democracy in your own backyard. It is not possible to be socially active and ignore the thousands of Palestinian workers who are hunted down in Israel like animals and are paid like slaves; to be a socialist and ignore the hundreds of thousands of unemployed in the territories; to have a conscience and be humane, and disregard the hardship of a people living under your own country's tyrannical rule; to be a democrat and remain silent despite the dangerous blows to the regime at home and the demolition of human rights just a 30-minute drive from Yachimovich's home in southern Tel Aviv.

It's not possible to be half social-democrat. It is not possible to fight for equality and justice for Jews alone - not even for Israelis alone. A social-democrat must clearly state his opinion on the settlements, another excluding enterprise, and the need for peace. He must draw the borders of his country and work to implement them in order to ensure genuine justice on both sides of the border.

About a year ago, Yachimovich wrote the following on her website: "On the way to a demonstration against the occupation, you can skip, nonchalantly, over a homeless person lying on the sidewalk in front of your house." True and shameful. By the same token, we cannot nonchalantly skip over the Palestinian illegal alien on our way to a demonstration against the tycoons.

It's fair to assume that Yachimovich has clear views on these topics as well. It might even be possible to ignore the suspicion that she avoids expressing such opinions because of the public cost they carry. And so while it's good that we have a niche-politician like Yachimovich, determined in face of Yitzhak Tshuva, the time has come for her to broaden her horizons. Israel has an essential need for a true social-democracy, an approach Yachimovich's party betrayed long ago.

While Isaac Herzog and Avishay Braverman warm up on the sidelines - regarding themselves as the future leaders of the Labor party, albeit in their eyes only - the time has come for Yachimovich to take some action. She is the sole promise of her party, a dying party that has, for the time being, no alternative. She must not wait any longer, in case Labor parts with its final breath. There's a lot of work to do, and it cannot be put off until the next election campaign. So run Shelly run - but harness the courage to lift the flags of every worthy cause.