Yachimovich: Soul-searching needed after election defeat
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Yachimovich: Soul-searching needed after election defeat

Former Labor leader says party must find way to reconnect to Israeli public, rules out joining unity government

Former Labor Party leader and current Zionist Union MK Shelly Yachimovich on December 17, 2014 (Amir Levy/Flash90)
Former Labor Party leader and current Zionist Union MK Shelly Yachimovich on December 17, 2014 (Amir Levy/Flash90)

Former Labor Party leader Shelly Yachimovich said Saturday the Labor-led Zionist Union would need to reflect on its place in Israeli society if it wants to return to a leadership position in the country, following its crushing defeat at the hands of Likud in last week’s general election.

Speaking at a cultural event in Bat Yam, Yachimovich stressed that such a process should not be “for strategic, campaign or tactical reasons” but part of a new, “entirely different discourse” that would help the party “shake off a world view that contains exclusionary, arrogant elements.”

The Zionist Union — a center-left merger of Isacc Herzog’s Labor and Tzipi Livni’s Hatnua parties — was trounced by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s center-right Likud party by a respective margin of 24 to 30 in Tuesday’s election. The results came as a surprise to many, as the majority of polls heading into the election had the Zionist Union leading by several seats.

In the days that followed, many pundits have pointed to the abiding view of many Israelis that the left is elitist and out of touch as one of the key reasons for its defeat.

The party has not led the government since Ehud Barak was defeated in the 2001 prime ministerial election.

Yachimovich also said he her party planned to stay out of Netanyahu’s governing coalition. She said she had discussed the matter with Herzog and that both had ruled out any notion of forming a unity government with the Likud.

“The concept of a unity government is not on the agenda,” Yachimovich said. “Joining Netanyahu’s right-wing government is not relevant for us under these circumstances.”

Her statements seemed to conflict with a Channel 2 report Friday according to which Herzog had refused to rule out sitting in a coalition with Netanyahu in an interview that will be broadcast on Saturday.

As Netanyahu gears up for negotiations to build a ruling coalition, speculations abound on who will get what ministry or chairmanship.

A Channel 2 report indicated Friday that Netanyahu wanted to keep Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon (Likud), Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman (Yisrael Beytenu) and Economy Minister Naftali Bennett (Jewish Home) in their posts, but faces extremely complicated negotiations to build a coalition.

Israeli TV and newspapers have been rife with speculation in the past three days over who will get which portfolio in the next government, with Liberman and Bennett both said to be eyeing the defense minister’s job.

It’s been suggested that Shas leader Aryeh Deri would be offered the interior ministry.

Channel 2 news Friday night said Bennett wants the defense role for himself and the education portfolio for a party colleague, and that Liberman might not join the coalition at all if he doesn’t get the defense post.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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