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The Cross of Bethlehem II

Labor Leader Supports Settler Budget

"Labor is not left....Yitzhak Rabin was not left... I am not left"

 

 

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On December 17, 2012, Labor leader Shelly Yachimovich gave an interview to Yedioth Aharonot, the largest Hebrew newspaper, and declared that if she won the elections scheduled for next month, her government will continue the settlements budget. This wasn't only the most emblematic statement of her policies, but also a reassessment of an earlier claim that the relevant political division in Israel is not right-left, but religious-secular (see Israel’s Big Bang). Should one care about a copycat-Netanyahu? Is hair-styling the only difference between Zionist candidates? Can we expect a peace agreement after the upcoming elections?

In the months since Ehud Barak left Labor, the central part of Israel's political map was shattered. At a certain moment, four parties were competing for a segment whose existence most Israelis refuse to recognize. Ehud Barak was competing against Labor until he understood that he had no chance to keep his position as Minister of Defense in the next government and quit. Tzipi Livni, Kadima's former leader, was deposed by Lieutenant General Shaul Mofaz; embittered, she announced a new party, that recruited a notable number of Kadima members (see Israel Former FM Hands Victory to Netanyahu). On the day of the interview, three parties compete for the votes of those secular Jews seeking a central party. Newcomer Lapid is still an unknown. In contrast, Netanyahu united the right-wing electorate by creating a shared list with his Foreign Affairs Minister, Avigdor Lieberman. Ever since, Netanyahu ends his work days with a long and healthy laugh at his political opponents.


"Until an [peace] agreement [with Palestine], [the government] will continue the settlements budget"

Labor Ballot - Emet Truth

Labor Ballot - "Emet" "Truth"
Also the mark of a Golem

Labor, Shelly, and an Israeli Golem

Having grown up in a Communist kibbutz, I am highly suspicious of any Jewish movement preaching equality; invariably, these speeches are just loud noises camouflaging discriminatory policies. On paper, the Israeli Labor Party is a social-democratic and labour Zionist political party; this is apparently confirmed by its membership as an observer of both the Socialist International and the Party of European Socialists. Until 1977, all Israeli Prime Ministers were affiliated with the Labor movement, or its predecessors. This means that the first settlements in the West Bank were approved and supported by Labor. Moreover, much of state discrimination against non-members of the ruling Zionist elite was created by this party. These issues make it difficult to accept Labor as socialist. In one of those errors caused by shallow education, early leaders of Labor chose "Emet" ("Truth" in Hebrew) as the ballot sign for their party. Beyond the obvious demagogy, this is also the traditional sign of the Golem, a Jewish monster; as it is often said in Hebrew, "from their mouth to God." They are right.

Following the split enforced by Ehud Barak in 2011, Shelly Yachimovich was elected party leader. Shelly ("mine" in Hebrew) is a well known figure in Israeli media. She began her career as a journalist of Al HaMishmar (“On Guard” in Hebrew), an extreme left newspaper related to HaShomer Hatzair (“The Young Guard,” a youth movement) and Mapam (a worker’s party). She went on to become an anchor for the Israel Broadcasting Authority's radio station Reshet Bet (state-owned) and afterwards moved to the Army Radio (state owned) and Channel 2 TV. She led a campaign in favor of Superpharm (a pharmacy franchise) workers, eventually winning them the right to sit during their long shifts. This event catapulted her into the Knesset, as a member of Labor. Her career couldn’t have flourished in such a way without serious links with the Israeli security services. HaShomer Hatzair, Mapam, and Al HaMishmar were all major strongholds of the Zionist ethos.

Hints of these links to the security services hide beyond her formal CV. During her extraordinarily popular morning program at Reshet Beth, she disclosed in the mid nineties that Wing 2 – an air force base near Moshav Zecharia – is the place from where Israel will launch Jericho nuclear missiles. This scoop was odd. Every person aware of this base knew before her scoop that it also serves as the alternate General Headquarters of the IDF. Yet, she said nothing about that. It seems she just disclosed the information the Shin Beth wanted to disseminate and nothing more.

Social justice protests in Tel Aviv, August 2011

Social justice protests in Tel Aviv, August 2011 | Photo by Tal Cohen

 

Elite Prerogatives

As in other societies, Israeli elites are above the law. Following Shelly on Labor's list is Isaac Herzog, the son of Israeli President Chaim Herzog and the grandson of Rabbi Yitzhak HaLevi Herzog; his nickname is "Buji." As Government Secretary in the 1999 Barak government, he was involved in a corruption case ("Amutot Barak") involving Barak's campaign funds. He refused to give any statements to the Attorney General, who concluded that there was enough evidence for Mr. Hertzog to be formally accused in court. The Police reached the same conclusion. Before that, the State Comptroller found in 2000, that Herzog had "stepped on the rule of law with a heavy foot," and that he was at the center of the illegal funding scheme. The Attorney General closed the case against him due to his silence. Moshe Mizrahi, another candidate, was thrown out of the police after he illegitimately hacked phones; no charges were placed against him. Please allow me this shortcut; reviewing all the corruption cases in this particular party would be tiring in the extreme. Like Likud, this is another case of corruptus in extremis. This is Labor at its best.

Chasing Netanyahu

Considering this, it is not surprising that Labor struggled in recent campaigns. It is approaching the upcoming elections with just 8 seats out of 120 in the Knesset. Most of its voters are the ageing population that witnessed the country's first years. Shelly's statement regarding the budget of the settlements is one of her attempts to reach other segments of the population. Not only rightwards, towards the settlers, but also towards the Jewish religious parts of Israeli society. That is why Mr. Herzog was placed second. In the interview, Shelly claimed that Labor will reach 20 seats in the next Knesset, becoming probably second only to the Likud-Yisrael Beitenu list.

"Labor is not left....Yitzhak Rabin was not left... I am not left," she said. Since the early 1980s violent Likud campaigns, "left" is a curse in Hebrew. On political issues, she presented a New Labor which looks like a Likud copycat. Does she expect to get votes in such a way? Why should a Likud member vote for her, if he can vote for Netanyahu? Will he do that due to her better hair-styling?

This is when Ms. Yachimovich returned to her roots. She joined the Knesset due to the long shifts of the Superpharm workers. She hopes to be catapulted into her own government by promising to be Likud while solving the social protests plaguing Israel since early 2011. She presented an economic plan that promises substantial expenses on social issues; unluckily the sources for the proposed massive investment are unclear. Aware of her slim chance, she said, "the chance I'll sit with Lieberman [in the government] are infinitesimal." In Hebrew politics, this reads, "Lieberman, I am awaiting your call, I accept the settlement budget." Netanyahu's next Coalition War is set.

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