Israel's Labor head poised to be Netanyahu gadfly



THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

Published — Tuesday 15 January 2013

Last update 17 January 2013 11:19 pm

| نسخة PDF Print News | A A

JERUSALEM: Just seven years after quitting her job as a high-profile media commentator, the leader of Israel's Labor Party appears to be on track to become head of the country's second-largest parliamentary faction and the leading voice against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
And if Netanyahu's coalition somehow falls short of a majority in next week's election, Shelly Yachimovich would likely wind up with a far more important job: prime minister of Israel.
Yachimovich, 52, took over Labor, in late 2011 at one of its lowest points. Buoyed by a social protest movement, she revitalized the party by veering away from its traditional dovish platform of promoting peace with the Arabs and focusing almost entirely on the economy, jobs and the country's various social ills.
Her political ascent, along with the strength of the Israeli right wing, underscores that pursuing peace with the Palestinians is not a winning campaign issue among Israelis, who appear to have lost faith that West Bank lands can be traded for peace.
Skeptical Israelis point to the rising strength of Hamas in Gaza Strip, the uncertainty roiling the region as the Arab Spring unfolds, and the wide gaps with moderate Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas that have kept negotiations deadlocked the past four years. Even when Israeli leaders proposed what they considered far-reaching offers, during the 2000-2001 negotiations and again in 2008, no deal was reached.
Netanyahu's Likud-Beiteinu bloc remains far ahead in the polls before the Jan. 22 vote, and Yachimovich has vowed not to serve in a Netanyahu government. As a result, she looks likely to become the country's new opposition leader, a forum that could allow the articulate populist to further burnish her credentials for any future race for prime minister.
Yachimovich appears set nearly to double Labor's presence from eight to as many as 18 seats in the 120-seat parliament. That would leave it well behind Likud-Beitenu but still the second-largest party in parliament.
Although Labor's roots were socialist, Yachimovich's economy-focused approach has alienated some of Labor's traditional supporters. Critics accuse her of turning Labor — which dominated Israeli politics for the country's first 30 years and produced prime ministers like David Ben-Gurion, Shimon Peres and Yitzhak Rabin — into a niche party that ignores Israel's diplomatic and security challenges and fails to present a viable alternative to the security-obsessed right.
Last week, acclaimed Israeli author Amos Oz attacked Yachimovich for neglecting the Palestinian issue, saying she was worse than former Labor leader Ehud Barak, who serves as Netanyahu's defense minister. Barak's defection from the party in 2011 opened the way for Yachimovich to take the helm.
"He (Barak) says there is no solution. She (Yachimovich) says there is no problem," said Oz, one of the most eloquent voices of Israel's left.
Yachimovich has also tiptoed around some of the traditional targets of the left — the huge government outlays on West Bank settlers and ultra-Orthodox Jews — in an effort to appeal to working-class voters who like Netanyahu's hard line on security but have been hurt by his economic policies.
Israel Radio political analyst Hanan Kristal gave Yachimovich high marks for making the party younger, more dynamic and "changing its DNA." But he said she was not a strong prime ministerial candidate like Netanyahu, or Barak and Ehud Olmert before him, because of her narrow focus.
"She's channeled the Labor Party into a one-issue party," he said. "That's her ideology, but it's also her strong suit. She's not as strong when it comes to diplomacy and security."
Public opinion polls confirm that most Israelis do not see her as prime ministerial material, and overwhelmingly see Netanyahu as best suited for the job. But if pre-election polls prove dramatically wrong and Netanyahu and his allies don't win enough support to form the next government, that task could fall to her.
Yachimovich's one-time mentor-turned-rival, former Defense Minister Amir Peretz, abruptly left Labor last month to team up with former Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni in a new party whose focus is resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Peretz, a former Labor leader, assailed Yachimovich for avoiding the conflict with the Palestinians.
"Labor gave up its historic role as the leader of the peace movement," he charged.
FROM: THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

What's happening around Saudi Arabia

JEDDAH: The Saudi led-coalition fighting to reinstate Yemen’s exiled government aims first to set it up in Aden and then return it to Sanaa if possible via peace talks with Houthi foes, a coalition spokesman said.But if the Iranian-allied Houthis did...
RIYADH: Nine Omani Umrah pilgrims, on their way back home, were killed and 34 were injured, in a road accident which took place near Khurais, between Riyadh and Al-Ahsa province.According to police, the coach carrying the pilgrims collided with a tra...
JEDDAH: The Kingdom and Namibia have signed a protocol to establish diplomatic relations between them.According to SPA, the protocol was signed on Tuesday by Saudi Arabia’s Permanent Representative at the United Nations Abdullah Al-Mouallimi and his...
JEDDAH: Official reports reveal nationalization levels of medical and health workers in the Kingdom remain low, with Saudi nationals making up only 21.7 percent of physicians, 31.8 percent of nurses, and 67.4 percent of ancillary staff.According to t...
JEDDAH: The Saudi Food and Drugs Authority (SFDA) will begin receiving clearance applications for medicines and medical supplies, including drugs containing narcotic or psychotropic substances, for Haj missions or other government bodies on Saturday....
JEDDAH: Saudi importers of cattle said the Haj season this year will not see an increase in the price of livestock due to the stability of the local market and the available supply.There are also guarantees from exporting countries that required quan...
JEDDAH: At the upcoming elections the national identity card will be the only approved document used for identifying voters of both genders and allowing voters to exercise their electoral right, provided all statutory requirements are met.In a press...
JEDDAH: Education Minister Azzam Al-Dakhil has spoken of a new education policy which emphasizes the importance of harmonizing admission policies in universities with the needs of the labor market.Al-Dakhil made these remarks during a meeting with un...
JEDDAH: Local bottled water consumption during the summer, Umrah and Haj seasons this year will increase by 10 percent.“This translates into an annual growth rate of between 4 percent and 5 percent,” Rashed Bin-Zouma, a water industry expert, was qu...
RIYADH: Four Saudi secondary students including a young woman from the Eastern Province have received prestigious medals at the 47th International Chemistry Olympiad (IChO), which concluded in Azerbaijan last week.The winners of the four bronze medal...
JEDDAH: The UAE’s decision to lift fuel subsidies beginning in August has raised the possibility of other Gulf states following suit.Economists suggest a wide disparity of prices of gasoline in the Gulf countries will lead to more petrol smuggling op...
DAMMAM: The tourism industry in the Kingdom is witnessing great interest by authorities to develop the archaeological areas, promote their support services and create the best environment for tourism products, said businessman Abdul Mohsen Al-Hokair....
JEDDAH: The ongoing World Circus at north Obhur has brought smiles on the faces of orphans, with its show of acrobats featuring 20 performers and clowns.The orphans of Al-Rawdah district charitable organization said they found the circus entertaining...
RIYADH: The Nepalese ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Udayaraj Pandey, thanked the Kingdom on Thursday as he ends his four-year tour of duty in Saudi Arabia.Earlier in the day, he called on Riyadh Gov. Prince Faisal bin Bandar to pay him a courtesy call a...
RIYADH: Movies produced by young and amateur Saudi filmmakers will be shown on Saudi Television starting in the middle of next week.“The films will be shown daily to encourage young Saudi filmmakers,” said Abdulaziz Fahad Al-Eid, senior broadcaster a...

Stay Connected

Facebook