Noa Rothman, the granddaughter of the late Israeli leader Yitzhak Rabin, announced on Monday that she was joining former prime minister Ehud Barak’s new political party in a bid to unseat Benjamin Netanyahu in the September elections.
Rothman said in a statement that joining the yet-to-be-named party was not an easy decision, but that she she “could no longer sit on the sidelines” due to the political climate in Israel.
“I know the price of hatred and incitement from up close, very close,” said Rothman, referring to the inflammatory public rhetoric that preceded her grandfather’s 1995 assassination. “We cannot accept the radicalization of Israeli society; this does not have to be our fate.”
Rothman said that while she disagreed with Barak on some issues, it was time for “brave, determined and experienced” leaders to step forward.
“It’s time to make difficult decisions for our children and restore moderation and hope [to Israel],” she said. “If I didn’t do anything now, I would never be at peace with myself.”
Rabin was murdered on November 4, 1995, by Yigal Amir, an extremist Jew, who was opposed to the Oslo Accords and the handing over of control of parts of the West Bank to the Palestinians as part of the landmark peace agreement.
In the months preceding the assassination, political hardliners branded Rabin a traitor at frenzied rallies and protests, with some calling for his death. Critics say Netanyahu — who attended at least two anti-Rabin rallies — ignored the inflammatory rhetoric that incited to Rabin’s murder, a charge the prime minister denies.
Rothman first appeared on the national stage as a teenager when she tearfully eulogized her grandfather at his funeral. She went on to serve in the IDF, working in the army newspaper unit, and wrote a book during that time, “In the Name of Sorrow and Hope.”
The 43-year-old author, attorney and mother of three has stayed out of politics for most of her life, though she regularly speaks at memorial events for her grandfather, often warning against incitement in the political arena.
At the last year’s memorial rally in Rabin Square, Rothman accused Netanyahu’s government of pitting political camps against each other and inciting against the left.
Barak on Monday welcomed Rothman’s decision to join his party, saying he would “do everything I can to reboot the country so our children and grandchildren will inherit a better reality than ours.”
Rothman was the second person to join the yet-to-be named party. On Sunday, Labor member Yair (Yaya) Fink announced his defection from the beleaguered party to Barak’s team, saying that Israel needed “real leadership” that could mount a credible challenge to Netanyahu.
Fink, former head of the community activist organization “Good Neighbor” and a former chief of staff to Labor veteran MK Shelly Yachimovich, said Barak’s new party was the place to “reclaim” Judaism for the left.
Announcing the formation of his party last week, Barak, 77, immediately sent shudders through the ranks of both the ailing Labor party and the centrist Blue and White. Both are likely to see voters defecting to the former prime minister and IDF general who declared himself the only person capable of unseating Netanyahu.
Labor, the party that led Israel for the country’s first 30 years, has seen its fortunes tumble in recent years, hit by a rightward shift among Israeli voters, turmoil in the party, and the emergence of various new political players that have eroded its base. In the April elections, it received just six Knesset seats, the worst result in its history.
Barak was the IDF’s longest-serving chief of staff and the country’s most decorated soldier before becoming prime minister in 1999 after defeating Netanyahu. Following his defeat in 2001 to the late Ariel Sharon, he temporarily retired from politics, but returned to the Labor party in 2005.
From 2007 to 2013, he served as defense minister, the last four years of which were under Netanyahu.
In 2011, while serving as defense minister under Netanyahu, Barak split with Labor in order to remain in the coalition government despite the objection of most of the party.
Hours after Barak announced his political comeback last week, a television poll said his new party would win six seats if national elections were held that day.