Saturday, September 24, 2011

Yachimovich and Labor Revitalization

Shelly Yachimovich is the new leader of Israel's Labor Party:
"Shelly Yachimovich, 51, a former journalist and a Labor member of Parliament since 2006, defeated Amir Peretz, a former leader of the center-left Labor Party and a former union leader, in a runoff ballot on Wednesday by 54 percent to 45 percent. Ms. Yachimovich is the seventh leader of Labor in a decade...

"Ms. Yachimovich, a staunch social democrat who has long campaigned against privatization and for socioeconomic change, captured the public mood. But few believed that her victory would be enough to propel Labor back to power."

The fact that the only security experience between the top two candidates for Labor leadership is Amir Peretz's tragicomic tenure as defense minister shows just how far the once-hegemonic party has fallen in the decade since the last Labor-led government fell in a landslide election to Ariel Sharon's Likud. I think, however, that especially in an environment of widespread social protest over economic conditions, Yachimovich could be the leader to revitalize them. Consider this endorsement:
"The summer of 2011 was also the summer of the Labor Party. The divorce from former Labor chairman Ehud Barak was good for Labor. The social agenda was also good for Labor. So was the late awakening by opposition leader MK Tzipi Livni. The party that was considered dead has been resurrected. It held a membership drive, renewed its institutions and conducted an impressive internal election campaign. It conjured up five worthy candidates to lead it. The party brought itself to a point in which it can be a counterweight to Kadima and a long term alternative to Likud. Shelly Yachimovich has many drawbacks, but only she can realize this potential. Only she can bring home hundreds of thousands who have abandoned Labor. Only she can bring hundreds of thousands of young people to Labor."

The phrasing "a counterweight to Kadima and a long term alternative to Likud" shows that even supporters recognize that Yachimovich is probably not a viable prime minister in security-conscious Israel, but would mostly likely serve in a coalition with Kadima, at which point some leaders could augment their foreign policy chops for a return to the top position after that. Kadima leader Tzipi Livni appears to recognize her own opening in calling Labor Kadima's "natural partner for a Zionist path to a future of peace and fair society," essentially co-opting a popular Labor social message into an image of what a Kadima-led government might look like.

Labor is in the dumps now, and outside of Israel, no one has heard of Shelly Yachimovich. However, parties have come back from the dumps before.



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