The leader of the opposition and head of the Labor Party, Shelly Yachimovich, called on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to provide the Knesset with a serious progress update on talks with the Palestinians.
“As head of the opposition, I would like an update. A basic update,” she demanded, adding that the negotiation affects every Knesset member and every Israeli.
Yachimovich was speaking Monday at the opening of the Knesset’s winter session. She also slammed his handling of the Iran nuclear crisis, and castigated him for not even mentioning looming layoffs at Israel’s biggest company, Teva.
The Labor leader reminded Netanyahu that her party had agreed to provide the prime minister with a “safety net” in the event that US-led efforts to broker new peace talks with the Palestinians bear fruit. The proposal was meant as an assurance that despite the proliferation in Netanyahu‘s government of hardliners who oppose a two-state solution, any peace initiative presented by the prime minister will gain the Knesset’s approval.
“We [the Labor Party] chose not to sit in the coalition with you. But we offered you a ‘safety net’ for real progress toward peace,” she said adding that she was waiting to see real achievements.
Yachimovich balked at the approach the Netanyahu government has taken with regards to negotiating a peace deal, demanding to know what the plan was.
“In three months, you’ve only had eight meetings [with the Palestinian negotiating team]? Is that how you handle serious talks? There’s three months left [according to the US-brokered negotiations which started in July and set a deadline of 9 months] — where are we headed?”
Yachimovich further demanded to know if the government was talking with representatives from the settler movement on what a potential deal would mean for them, as some settlements would have to be evacuated.
“Are we preparing the ground to implement the deal? Will we have to unilaterally withdraw from some settlements?” she asked.
“If the negotiations bear no fruit, how do we protect the country, the future of the Zionist dream [from a binational state]?”
Yachimovich also criticized the prime minister for his “apocalyptic” approach to the Iranian nuclear dispute.
“There is no disagreement that we have what we need to defend ourselves, and thankfully, we have the means. But we disagree on the strategy,” she said.
“Iran really represents an existential threat to the Jewish people and the Zionist project?” she asked incredulously. “Why do we need this apocalyptic approach?”
“The future will be shaped by our actions,” she warned.
Addressing Netanyahu, she added “you say that [Theodor] Herzl and [Winston] Churchill were more isolated than you. The problem is that Israel is getting more isolated [under your leadership].”
Turning to domestic issues, she said she had “listened very carefully” to his speech, and asked, incredulous, “Not one word on Teva?” The pharmaceutical company is set to dismiss thousands of staff worldwide and hundreds of Israel in an efficiency campaign. Looming dismissals at Teva, Israel’s leading firm, constitute the equivalent of “a mass terror attack,” she said.