Soon-to-be opposition head Shelly Yachimovich said Friday she had no regrets over repeatedly refusing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s offers to join the coalition.
“True, I could have been the finance minister, but to be a minister and sit on the leather couch is not a goal in itself, but rather a means towards achieving a worldview,” said Yachimovich in an interview to Chanel 2 News, hours after the job was officially handed to Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid.
“The fact is that before the elections we promised that we would not enter a Netanyahu-led government, not because of personal reasons — I hold the prime minister in high regard — but because of the deep ideological gap that lay between us, mostly over how we view Israeli society and the division of resources,” said the former journalist, who led a Labor campaign focused nearly solely on social issues that ended up earning her party a disappointing 15 Knesset seats.
“However, if, during my talks with the prime minister, I would have gleamed that he had changed his position — not a 180 degree change, or even a 90 degree change, but a 30 degree change — and that he was skewing in our direction in terms of real policy change, I might have considered going back on the promise.”
“I didn’t hear from Netanyahu the economic equivalent of his two-state solution concession — the game changer that would convince me to go with him,” said Yachimovich, who has met with Netanyahu on at least three different occasions since the elections. “To sit in a government and be the executioner of policies that contradict your worldview means to betray your voters.”
Netanyahu had hoped to use Labor’s entering the coalition to break apart the alliance between Jewish Home and Yesh Atid.
Addressing her party’s elections showing, Yachimovich said, “Let’s keep things in proportion. True, we wanted to win more Knesset seats, but we managed to receive 100,000 more votes than in the previous elections. Four years ago, the Labor Party lay bleeding on the floor, being eulogized by everyone. We went through a real rejuvenation process, we were able to change the national discourse to address our issues.”
Looking ahead to life in the opposition, Yachimovich said she plans to lead an “amazing opposition with 52 MKs.”
“Our first meeting is on Sunday and we plan to work very, very hard together,” she said.
Asked about her relationship with Shas leader Arye Deri, who earlier this week called for close cooperation with her party, Yachimovich said, “I haven’t exchanged a word with Aryeh Deri in years and I must say, I hardly fancy his public embrace. At the same time, I can say that I share certain social beliefs with members of Shas.”
Yachimovich said she was trying hard to set up a meeting with US President Barack Obama during his visit to Israel next week, but that since she only officially becomes opposition chief two weeks after the new government is sworn in, “and the Americans are sticklers for formalities,” she did not feature in the president’s agenda.