Labor’s Yachimovich announces timeout from politics, laments gamesmanship
Balance between politics, public service 'has been upended'

Labor’s Yachimovich announces timeout from politics, laments gamesmanship

After 13 years as an MK, during which she led the party and the opposition, the socially minded legislator says she’s ‘very tired of the politics part’

Shelly Yachimovich leads a State Control Committee meeting in the Knesset on December 31, 2018. (Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90)
Shelly Yachimovich leads a State Control Committee meeting in the Knesset on December 31, 2018. (Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90)

Top Labor Party MK Shelly Yachimovich announced Tuesday she was quitting politics, at least for a while, and would not run for office in the upcoming September elections.

Yachimovich wrote on Facebook she was “taking a break” after 13 years as a Knesset member, explaining that “at least for the time being, I’ve exhausted my effectiveness in politics.”

Yachimovich, a former journalist who served as the leader of the Labor Party between 2011-2013 and as leader of the opposition in 2012, 2013, and 2019, said her decision was part of “an ongoing personal process.”

Yachimovich said she was “grateful for the opportunity to serve the public” and “never stopped loving parliamentary work,” but added that she was “very tired of the politics part.”

In her statement, the former Labor leader lamented political gamesmanship that she said was paralyzing the country. With the nation holding an unprecedented two elections in a year, meaningful parliamentary work for the citizenry had become impossible for the foreseeable future, she said. “There must be a balance between [politics] and public service. This balance has been upended intolerably.”

Yachimovich was originally brought into politics ahead of the 2006 election by Amir Peretz, then newly elected to lead Labor. Peretz served as party head between 2005-2007 and was recently reelected to the post.

Shelly Yachimovich at the Knesset in 2013, as Labor Party chairwoman and leader of the opposition (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

The two have had an occasionally rocky relationship over the years, but Yachimovich stressed that she would continue to support Labor and Peretz from outside the Knesset.

Yachimovich, 59, a self-proclaimed socialist, has championed issues of economic and social inequality and often spoke out strongly against government corruption and misconduct. She has sponsored over 60 bills which eventually became laws.

As leader of the party in the 2013 election, she managed to bring it to 15 seats — a two-seat improvement on its previous showing but not enough to save her job. She was replaced by Isaac Herzog who went on to form the Zionist Union alongside Tzipi Livni in 2015.

But Yachimovich has remained popular with party voters and was placed fifth on the party’s slate prior to the April election.

She will presumably be replaced by Merav Michaeli, who placed seventh on the roster during the last election and did not make it into the Knesset (Peretz, who came in sixth place, was bumped to the No. 1 spot after winning the leadership race).

Yachimovich’s departure follows those of Avi Gabbay, the former leader of the party ousted in the primary held earlier this month, and former army general Tal Russo, who was brought in by Gabbay to the slate’s No. 2 spot, reserved for an appointment by the party chief.

Yachimovich had supported leadership of the now-disgraced Gabbay, who in April brought the Labor party to its worst-ever showing with just six seats.

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