This is not the first election in which the Labor Party has been a disappointment. Every time I think they have made every mistake possible — they come up with some more. Although they are to some extent a rival to my party, Meretz, it saddens me that they repeatedly miss out in helping pull the left together — and up. This time it seems to me they’ve made at least three big mistakes.
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First, early on in the race, Shelly Yachimovitch came out in support of Netanyahu’s handling of the war in Gaza and hinted that she’d be willing to form a government with him, saying she wouldn’t discount any possibility (this was probably also meant in part to be a criticism of Meretz, which stated early on it wouldn’t join a government with him — and be “fig leaf” for his freeze on any peace initiative). Then, just a week or so ago, when it was clear that the Labor Party (which had 42 seats under Rabin!) probably wouldn’t reach 20 seats, she announced (days after reiterating on the news that no party was taboo!) she would not join in any government that Netanyahu heads. Couldn’t the party have thought this through earlier? And is anyone willing to place bets that the Labor Party won’t end up crawling into another government with Bibi, as it did last time? Or split over the issue? Or both?
Second, Yachimovitch is so focused on economic issues the party doesn’t seem to address any other ones. In a country that just fought a war (albeit a “small” one), that has a large neighbor, Syria, in the midst of a bloody civil wat, and after a revolution in our neighbor Egypt ( a mere 80+ million citizens), did she really think she could run a serious campaign and avoid any mention of national security? With all due respect to the social protests — and as a person who spends most of her time dealing with socioeconomic problems — I must say I don’t understand what she is thinking.
Worse, in their whole detailed economic proposal they managed to skirt two of the biggest and most controversial issues: the settlements and the subsidizing of the Ultra-religious and their yeshivot. Is hiding those budget points responsible or just a way to help the party present itself as “centrist” — i.e., not taking sides on some of the biggest issues facing the country? If a party chooses to focus on only one issue — the economy– it should at least be thorough about it.
Third, the Labor Party (again, a party presenting itself as a contender for forming the government) addresses itself only to the middle class. When it does so, it doesn’t even do it in terms accepted in Israel: Israelis are known to be one of the most patriotic peoples around, who serve 2-3 years in the army, and come when they’re called — as they are rather regularly– to defend their borders. What was one of the Labor Party’s slogans this campaign? “Shelly is good for you”. Personally, I find that a rather offensive pitch; it certainly goes against the Israeli grain (perhaps a suggestion from one of the party’s American media consultants?). The average Israeli won’t vote for whoever is “good” for them; the average Israeli wants what is good for his country and as Netanyahu’s adverts say, “a strong Israel.” From my understanding of things, a left wing party, or even a centrist one, should at least try to talk about solidarity. A populist pitch aimed only at the middle class, is irritating and shows how far the party has strayed from its roots.
In the meantime it is heartening to see that Meretz is continuing to rise in the polls: I think that is in part because its platform is clear, consistent, and comprehensive. Too bad our sister party is in such a muddle.