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What's the deal with Shelly Yachimovich?

Despite a recent rise in the polls, Labor’s leader seems determined to follow failed policies of former party leaders.

As the Labor Party under Shelly Yachimovich rises in the polls, many observers are wondering whether the journalist-turned-politician could be the leader that the center-left camp is searching for, one that could challenge Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on the ideological and electoral front.

Labor is now polling 25 seats. A similar result in the general election would be the party’s best since 1999, when Ehud Barak led it. Yachimovich differs from Netanyahu on her economic views, and she was so far able to capitalize on the desire for better social services and the resentment of the neo-liberalism that is at the center of the J14 movement (“the tent protest”). It’s easy to see why many see the promise in Yachimovich.

Still, these are not the nineties. Changes in the Israeli electorate and political circumstances present a new challenge of left-of-center leaders who truly want to affect policy. So far, Yachimovich has not been able to rise to it, nor does she show any desire to try. Her response to right-wing tendencies in the Jewish public is a vulgar ideological shift to the right.

In a recent statement, Yachimovich didn’t rule out joining Netanyahu’s next government. “It would be foolish of me to veto potential coalition partners,” she said. Yachimovich used the same argument all Labor leaders in the past decade had when they joined right-wing coalitions: stating that she wants to make labor “part of the decision making process.”

This is what Ehud Barak said when he joined Netanyahu’s coalition, what Shimon Peres and Benjamin Ben-Eliezer said under Sharon. In all the above cases, left-leaning voters ended up seeing their elected representatives serving as a buffer against local and international criticism of right-wing policies.

Yachimovich supported accreditation of the new university in Ariel, claiming that Israeli governments treated Ariel in the past as part of Israel, and therefore there is little point in treating them as “outsiders” now. It’s a message that could have opened a door to radical, out-of-the-box views of the situation in the West Bank, if it was accompanied by a vision regarding the status of the Palestinian population. But Yachimovich is all but ignoring the occupation. When asked about her vision regarding the future of the territories east of the Green Line, she pays lip service to the Clinton Parameters (as long as Israel keep the large settlements blocs). To be honest, I don’t remember any leader from the center of the Israeli political map which showed so little interest in the Palestinian issue. Not Livni, not even Barak.

Yachimovich has never put the anti-democratic legislation as a major part of her political agenda. The alienation of Palestinian citizens doesn’t bother her. In her latest book, “Us” (אנחנו), she hardly mentions them. Her preferred term in describing political adversaries and their policies is “anti-Zionists.” Her message on the effect of big business interests on the Israeli economy is well suited for the zeitgeist, but she obviously lacks a comprehensive, holistic perception of the fundamental challenges facing Israelis today. Even Yachimovich’s one quality that is worthy of certain admiration – her refusal to bash the Orthodox – seems more like the result of smart political calculations, rather than ideology.

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    1. LS

      It is no longer newsworthy to point out that within Israel there is no meaningful political opposition to the current rightist policies. The opposition that does exist comes from NGOs and certain media. Sad but true.

      Reply to Comment
    2. Danny

      To paraphrase a recent quote by our PM: The sea is the same sea, and Labor is the same Labor. Anyone foolish enough to vote for this piece of shit in new (women’s) clothing, deserves the rotten right-wing government they’ll get, complete with the beautiful fig leaf that is Labor. Yachimovich will have her wish to be finance minister, but if anybody believes for a second that their financial lot will be any better with her, I’ve got an Azrieli tower I’d like to sell them. And the occupation? Why, that will go on as it always has since Labor’s ideology is nothing more than the perpetuation of the status quo. But then again, at least we’ll have Buji back – I always felt that having only a Bibi and a Boogy in the government was not enough. Buji will make the triumvirate complete.

      Reply to Comment
    3. Prometheus

      These polls seem unrealistic.
      Who is that Shelly? Why would anyone trust her with anything more complicated that studio microphone?
      Avoda used to be lead by very prominent people, who actually did things and achieved something.
      The very fact of Shelly winning primaries shows that the party is dying – letting anyone of her skills and expertise anywhere near important decision-making would imminently lead to a disaster.

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    4. Jehudah Ben-Israel

      Ms. Yachimowitz’s views regarding the Arab Israeli conflict are nearly identical to those of the late Mr. Yitzhaq Rabin who was dubbed by many around the world as the prince-of-peace. Mr. Rabin’s contour for peace which he pronounced before the Knesset in October 1995 sums things up:

      (1) Jerusalem will remain united under Israel’s sovereignty and will also include the suburbs of Giv’at Zeev and Ma’aleh Adumim

      (2) All major Jewish settlement blocs will be incorporated into Israel’s sovereign territory, e.g. Ariel, Gush Etzion, Qirjat Arba, Gush Qatif

      (3) The Jordan Valley must be viewed in the widest sense of the term and it too will remain under Israel’s rule

      (4) The future Palestinian state will not be a regular state in that it will be totally demilitarized, its airspace will be controlled by Israel, as will its boundaries and all of its border passes: land, sea and air

      This was Rabin’s very last speech before the Knesset, and when it is analyzed, it becomes clear that not only the Labor Party stands behind it but also the vast majority of the Israeli public, including the present government and the one who heads it.

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    5. Jehudah Ben-Israel

      P.S. Let us be very clear: Mr. Rabin’s Contour for Peace speech was based on viewing Israel’s national and security interests, of course, but was within the framework of the fundamental elements of international law related to the Aarab Israeli conflict and its resolution, and more specifically the UN Security Council Resolution, 242, which passed unanimously at the Security Council and accepted by all relevant parties to the conflict.

      Reply to Comment
    6. Y-Man

      Yitzhak Rabin had a great photo-op with Clinton and Arafat. He deserves a lot of credit for the Oslo Accords, which really solved lots of disagreements between Israel and the Palestinians, totally got Israel to always obey UN Resolutions, marked an end to the decades-long occupation and its accompanying violence, and totally made Israel a stand up place. Oh wait.

      Reply to Comment
    7. Y-Man

      Jedudah, do you get paid to post hasbara on blogs? Because you do it on 972 like it’s your job.

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    8. Kolumn9

      Look, the only reason Shelly polls 25 seats is because she has moved Labor into the new political consensus which basically discounts the possibility of peace with the Palestinians in the near future. As such, she is going about this like a very smart centrist politician looking to capitalize on the policy failures of Bibi and the Likud while keeping open the possibility of bringing the Haredim into a future Labor-led government. Were she to get in the position to lead it is almost inevitable that her policies vis-a-vis peace talks with the Palestinians will be very different from Bibi’s as per her lip service to the Clinton parameters and the likely pressures from her leftist coalition partners and the Americans.

      So, why are you busting her balls? Would you prefer that she loudly stick to politically suicidal positions that are outside the consensus at the expense of permanently leading a tiny party whose only chance at any power is in the shadow of a right-wing coalition? I know you are not a Labor voter (afaik you last voted hadash), but are you so politically obtuse as to not understand that the only chance the left has at governing is by refocusing the discussion towards economics and away from the peace obsession?

      This is the problem with leftists. You are too busy crapping on each other to see that you are all stuck in the proverbial toilet.

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    9. avramele

      Perhaps the global politician Shelly resembles most is Obama. Progressive on domestic issues, center right on national security . The only difference is Shelly can openly identify as a social democrat whereas Obama must stay in the socio-economic closet. Labor with 20 something seats would be more than a fig leaf in any government and more than likely ther needle on the palestinian issue will move leftward. More than worth the electoral risk considering what we got now!

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    10. Noam W.

      Noam, perhaps the title of the article should be “because of a recent rise in the polls” and not “despite a recent rise in the polls”.
      For years Israeli politics were dominated by the dove-hawk axis. Perhaps Yechimovich thinks it is more politically astute of her to differentiate herself on the social-capital axis.

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    11. Piotr Berman

      “Who is that Shelly? Why would anyone trust her with anything more complicated that studio microphone?”

      A large section of the public firmly demands wishy-washy politicians who can fix potholes, assure supply of textbooks and so on. Or just look well and speak with a well modulated voice (the appeal of Yair Vapid can be explained in that manner).

      In that school of thought, politicians with grand visions and firm convictions can easily be distracted from fixing potholes, getting enough equipment to defend from forest fires,

      For example, Avigdor Lieberman has grand vision and deep convictions, but what they really mean it may be hard to tell in concrete terms. No such problem with Shelly. I do not know Hebrew, but to me, it was somewhat instructive what Lieberman and Yachimovich said about the reforms necessitated (or not) by the expiration of Tal Law. Lieberman made some sweeping statements that lead to nowhere, while Shelly had an opinion that a deeper discussion is needed — perhaps Hebrew version was more specific.

      If I understood correctly, the idea was if it is practical to give equal rights and duties to all Jews in Israel. In Lieberman’s school of though, all citizens should have equal rights and duties, to be enthusiastic Jewish patriots (if they are not Jewish, their enthusiasm should be tested, with some penalties if it is lacking).

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    12. The suicide bombings of 2000-4/5 did terrible damge to the polity. Labor essentially lost its left wing. And its center rump (assuming Barak’s exit took the right) doesn’t know what to do. The left bashing by commentors on this site is done to ensure that doesn’t change. Only the Bibi juggernaut of enforced correctness must exist. And you seem to have evolved a political economy where this works. The sole wedge I have seen is the equal duties talk; and the left wants to bash that down too. For things to change, you have to start with what can start. Purity, right now, is the perfect tool of the right.

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    13. Prometheus

      I don’l like Lieberman – ever heard a joke about how many Moldavian are required to change a light bulb? – however I would not compare him to Shelly.
      1 – The party he is leading is of his own (started up with a bit of Russian money tho http://ru.wikipedia.org/wiki/%D0%9D%D0%B0%D1%88_%D0%B4%D0%BE%D0%BC_%E2%80%94_%D0%A0%D0%BE%D1%81%D1%81%D0%B8%D1%8F ) – Shelly entered Avoda in 2005, under Amir Peretz – the very same guy, with an education and abilities of a watermelon, who have managed to lose the Lebanon war.
      2 – During last 5-10 years Lieberman did achieved some things – not a lot, but certainly much more than Avoda – which basically have achieved ABSOLUTELY NOTHING
      3 – Lieberman is surrounded by people whose achievements are known and real. The tourism minister for instance. Not that there are too many useful man, just some. Contrary to that, the ENTIRE Avoda today comprised of people whom I would not even trust to clean my toiled, let alone run the country.
      In my opinion what Israel (desperately) needs now is educated professionals. Not Yachimovich with her 4!!! unfinished degrees and certainly not Lapid with his second degree without the first one.
      I’ve never heard that specific discussion, however I’ve heard both Yachimovitch and Lieberman on radio rather numerous times – should by any wicked chance Shelly became the Prime Minister – or get any important position – I’ll leave the country within 48 hours.
      “If I understood correctly, the idea was if it is practical to give equal rights and duties to all Jews in Israel. ”
      Actually there are FEW views on that.
      1 – Leftists think that Haredim must be called to the army under the fear of sanctions, while leftists and Arabs must be given an option not to serve.
      2 – Some rightists are claiming that status quo is fine.
      3 – Lieberman actually proposed to make service to a country mandatory to all and any citizens of all ethnicities – on an equal basis.
      “to be enthusiastic Jewish patriots (if they are not Jewish, their enthusiasm should be tested, with some penalties if it is lacking).”
      The position is simple – everyone must give couple years to the country. There are two branches of service – military and social, so there is actually no need to test any enthusiasm on military bases.

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    14. Prometheus

      “The suicide bombings of 2000-4/5 did terrible damge to the polity. Labor essentially lost its left wing.”
      Not entirely correct.
      It was not the bombings who have damaged the Avoda.
      It is the fact that bombings came as a response to the peace initiative by Barak.

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    15. Kolumn9

      It isn’t just that the bombings came in response to Barak’s offer, but that they were launched from areas evacuated by Avoda on the basis of a totally disproven platform sold to the public by Avoda and supported monetarily and politically by armed terrorists allowed into the evacuated areas by Avoda. Every time Abbas shows up within spitting distance from Jerusalem at a ceremony honoring the murderers of Israeli civilians is a reminder of just how fallacious was the entire illusion sold by the left with Avoda at its head.

      Shelly would be wise to ignore the idiots on the left who think it is still 1995 and the result of handing strategic territory to Arab terrorists is still an unknown.

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    16. Y-Man

      Prometheus, the idea that Palestinian “bombings came as a response to the peace initiative by Barak” is one of the most self-serving delusions I’ve ever heard.

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    17. Prometheus

      So what was the reason behind those bombings?

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    18. Jehudah Ben-Israel

      “…the idea that Palestinian ‘bombings came as a response to the peace initiative by Barak’ is one of the most self-serving delusions…”
      Sadly, since 1920 – note again, since 1920!! – each time a peace proposal has been made the Muslim-Arabs rejected it, but not only in words, but in deeds, consisting of mass slaughter of civilian Jews. What since has become a nearly a hundred years pattern of the war-of-attrition-through-terror against the Jewish community of the country has been perhaps the most difficult obstacle to achieve peace. The violent events against the Jewish community of the country between the years 2000 and 2005 only constituted a single link in this long chain.
      Therefore, I strongly suggest the poster and like minded learn the history of the conflict and then put events in the proper context of time, place and circumstances in order to appreciate the Muslim-Arab knee jerk behavior each time the idea is expressed that they would have to accept the existence of a sovereign nation-state of the Jewish people; and, that a peace treaty, note again, a peace treaty, should be considered by all parties as the end of the conflict and the end of all future demands.

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    19. Piotr Berman

      “to be enthusiastic Jewish patriots (if they are not Jewish, their enthusiasm should be tested, with some penalties if it is lacking).”

      There were many elements of it, like loyalty oaths for new citizens if they are not Jewish (many Jews would refuse oaths to the secular state and that would be awkward). Campaign to forbid or tax foreign donations to NGOs was also in the direction of compulsory enthusiasm for the state.

      My actual point is that Lieberman offers some “grand vision”, not necessarily a good one, and if there are bits that are good nothing will happen on them. Shelly competes for the same votes as Vapid, but with a motherly touch (like worrying about good preschools for everyone), so no bother with trying to figure if her vision makes sense — there is none.

      The professionalism of politicians is not a panaceum. I do not know what an professional minister of Tourism can do that a political appointee cannot, and SOME ministries have to be reserved for idiots if you have a coalition government. Since the private sector can serve tourists adequately with no help from the state, Tourism seems to be a perfect post (apart from ministers without portfolios). It was discovered that Foreign Ministry is a good post for idiots too, as the minister annoys people abroad rather than the voters.

      It is more important what a minister of Finance does. Actually it is so important that it is a universal practice that this minister has adequate education. And then the guy discovers that finances of the state get improved by a retroactive tax cut for corporations. Hm. Bernie Madoff had an excellent education and experience, an ordinary huckster would never manage to run a Ponzi scheme of that size or for so long.

      In the case of Peres as the minister of War, I can only surmise that the idea was with Israel has such excellent generals that even Shelly could run the ministry. I never heard any accusations that Peres actually made the job of the generals harder. The art of winning a war is in part the art of selecting the goals. Israel could declare a total victory after a few days or a week and finish at that.

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    20. Y-man

      @Prometheus I don’t know, maybe the decades of violent occupation? Just a wild guess.

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    21. Prometheus

      Y-man – as you’ve said – you don’t know. To be more precise – you have no slightest idea whatsoever.

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    22. Y-Man

      Prometheus, what idea should I have? Please enlighten me!

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    23. Prometheus

      I’ve already did that.
      “It was not the bombings who have damaged the Avoda.
      It is the fact that bombings came as a response to the peace initiative by Barak.”

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    24. Y-Man

      Explain to me why you think the bombings came in response to the peace initiative and not, say, decades and decades of brutal occupation.

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    25. XYZ

      Let me understand your question. After the Palestinians sign a supposed “peace agreement”, their official leadership sets off a massive suicide bomber campaign, because of presumed “oppression” in previous years. Why did they sign the “peace agreement” if they were intending all along to make a war because of supposed older grievances?

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    26. Y-Man

      “According to the New York Times, many in the Arab world, including Egyptians, Palestinians, Lebanese and Jordanians, point to Sharon’s visit as the beginning of the Second intifada and derailment of the peace process.” and “In the first five days of rioting and clashes after the visit, Israeli police and security forces killed 47 Palestinians and wounded 1885, while Palestinians killed 5 Israelis.” Well thanks for providing this link which totally disproves what you were saying.

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    27. Y-Man

      XYZ, neither Palestinians nor Israelis signed any peace agreement at Camp David in 2000. Are you Israeli? Did you not know this?

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    28. Prometheus

      So in your opinion the fact that a Jew goes onto the Temple Mount is itself is sufficient enough reason for Arabs to start killing Jews.
      Ok, accepted.
      Than would you care to explain why Jews must not start killing Arabs because some of them are going onto the Temple Mount?

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    29. Y-Man

      See, what you’re doing rhetorically is setting up this straw man here. Of course I don’t believe “a Jew goes onto the Temple Mount is itself is sufficient enough reason for Arabs to start killing Jews.” Your assertion that the Second Intifada was caused by Barak’s “peace offering” having been proven patently false by me, you’re now trying to say I support terrorism somehow. We were talking about facts and reality, not what I believe is right or wrong. Israel has violently occupied Palestinians for decades. Ariel Sharon went to the Temple Mount with a thousand policemen at a time when it became clear to the Palestinians that Israel was not going to stop violently occupying the Palestinians, and that the Western power which enabled the creation of the Israeli nation-state was not going to do anything to stop the Israeli occupation, either. Talking about a negotiated settlement to end the decades of occupation under the aegis of the US was, to put it in layman’s terms, bullshit. Settlement growth and house demolitions both went on unabated the entire time the former IDF officer and Lithuanian-descended Barak was bullshitting in Camp David. I’ve got no love for Yassir Arafat or Hamas or suicide bombing per se, but the asymmetry of power in this situation is so obvious that arguing that the Palestinians themselves are responsible for their decades-long occupation by the Israeli military, as opposed to the ACTUAL ARMY THAT HAS BEEN DOING THE OCCUPYING FOR DECADES, is either dishonest or delusional. Those are the facts. Not shopworn Hasbara talking points, like this ridiculous rhetoric about the Temple Mount.

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    30. Y-Man

      I know I shouldn’t deign to feed a troll, but it interesting to hear the hasbara talking points and how people can rationalize things, almost like an anthropological fascination.

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    31. Prometheus

      If you are payed to post here it does not mean that others are too.
      So, let’s analyze the timeline
      Palestinians start first Intifada
      Oslo accords signed
      3 governments in Israel have changed
      Barak enters negotiations with Arafat in Camp David
      Arafat turns down all offers and leaves negotiations table
      Jews visit Temple Mount
      Full-scale Intifada breaks out
      1 – Palestinians have no one but Arafat to blame for the fact that they still have no state.
      2 – Second Intifada was initiated by Arafat to create additional pressure on Israel.
      Violent occupation during Rabin and Peres?
      Dude, you just have no idea what you are talking about.
      P.S. Whatever you are mistakenly calling “facts” actually are heavily biased opinions.

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    32. Y-Man

      I’m not paid to post on here. I agree with these articles. you’re the troll here, and it’s not unheard of for the Israeli government to pay hasbara web commenters.
      once again, let’s get specific. which of my statements were “heavily biased opinions?” Because I can tell you right now that to blame Yasir Arafat for a 46-year occupation as opposed to THE FUCKING ARMY THAT OCCUPIES THEM is insane. And I didn’t realize that the occupation under Rabin and Peres was non-military. Did the IDF use powerful logical argumentation as opposed to bulldozers to demolish houses? Did they stop using guns and tanks and barbed wire? I mean, do you not think Palestinians are people who deserve freeom? What came first, the decades of military occupation or the Intifadas? How fucking brainwashed do you have to be to buy this stuff you’re selling?

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