Emanuel Shahaf

Labor, Temporarily Interrupted

The brazen agreement forged at night and behind closed doors between PM Netanyahu and Shaul Mofaz put a sudden stop to what seemed to be a sure home run for Labor’s Shelly Yachimovich. Ever since her victory in Labor’s primary elections last September, she has received a lot of credit, both from the public and from her party. Everything was set for a continued rise in the polls, all the way until election day. Likely to be bolstered by damaging exposures about Netanyahu and Barak from the soon to be released reports from the State Comptroller’s office regarding the Mavi Marmara incident and the Mount Carmel Desaster, she was, despite her own mostly ambivalent statements, reasonably well positioned to become a contender for the position of Prime Minister. The unity government deal put an end to this. As head of a decimated opposition she will now have to work hard to get back into the race to the top. Veteran members of her party, rather forgiving of her ways until now will breathe down her neck and expect to get the respect and attention they deserve. Just like Netanyahu found out last week with the Likud when he didn’t get the sweeping empowerment that he wanted, party members, unless treated well and showered with attention, can and do surprise their chairpersons in a bad way .

Labor’s small number of Knesset members will make it difficult to run an effective parliamentary opposition and Ms. Yachimovich may have to move most of her efforts outside the Knesset, into the streets. While this will permit her to finally connect to the street protests which have been looking for a strong political leader for quite a while, it will make it more difficult for her to present a holistic agenda, something many of Labor’s members and supporters have been waiting for.

Few politicians like to be forced to take a position they didn’t want to take and Ms. Yachimovich is no exception but leading the protest movement in the streets at a time when, for all intents and purposes the parliamentary opposition has been reduced to zilch, would fit her like a glove. She has an uncanny ability to raise hell when she thinks it’s necessary and with the economic disparities as large as they are and growing every day, she might well be able to do so, spectacularly. Should that happen, it is by no means certain that the government will be able to serve out its term despite all the shady efforts of Netanyahu, Mofaz and Barak to the contrary.

About the Author
The author served in the Prime Minister’s Office as a member of the intelligence community, is Vice Chairman of the Israel-Indonesia Chamber of Commerce, Vice-Chairman of the Israeli-German Society (IDG), Co-Chair of the Federation Movement (, member of the council at and author of "Identity: The Quest for Israel's Future".