The Labor Party
will not join the governing coalition currently being forged by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Less than a week after voters gave Labor only 15 Knesset seats,
party members convened Sunday for their first and very stormy faction meeting in Tel Aviv to discuss what was dubbed a failed political campaign.
Some party members voiced harsh criticism of Labor Party Chairwoman Shelly Yachimovich,
claiming she failed to update party members during the election campaign. Nonetheless, the faction decided not to join the government, with Yachimovich reiterating her previous statement: "We will not join the coalition."
Some of Yachimovich's biggest critics were veteran MKs Binyamin Ben-Eliezer and Eitan Cabel as well as soon-to-be MKs
Miki Rozental and Erel Margalit.
Yachimovich: Good meeting (Photo: Ofer Amram)
Rozental fumed over Yachimovich's failure to update party members regarding a conversation she held with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu after the publication of the election results, in which she informed him "It was decided we will sit in the opposition."
Additionally, a source who was present at the meeting said Cabel
"talked about democratic processes within the party and discussed the party's constitution. He seemed to insinuate that the party's primaries
should be held in the not-so-distant future. Not tomorrow, but sometime soon."
Ben-Eliezer: We estranged our base (Photo: Ofer Amram)
and MK Nachman Shai, as well as soon-to-be MKs Omer Bar-Lev and Margalit, said that the party should enter into a dialogue with the coalition, so as not to be left out of the political game.
Others openly criticized the chairwoman's strategic decision to announce, two weeks prior to the election, that "We (Labor) will not join Netanyahu's government," with Rozental bluntly saying: "'You cannot take such decisions on your own; we expect to be informed if negotiations are underway."
MK Cabel took the heat for the announcement, claiming it was published before he had a chance to comment and take control. However, he slammed Yachimovich for failing to communicate with party members during the campaign. MK Shai voiced similar remarks.
Soon-to-be MK Stav Shafir (Photo: Ofer Amram)
Number two on the party's list, former Social Affairs Minister MK Isaac Herzog
said some of Yachimovich's comments on the economy estranged potential voters, adding: "We lost votes to Meretz and the Left for winking at the settlers and we lost votes to the Center for deciding not to join the government."
MK Ben-Eliezer claimed that the party alienated its base by failing to present a diplomatic and national agenda regarding the Palestinians, with Margalit adding: "Labor needs a clear diplomatic position with a clear outline for the political process."
Margalit also claimed the party's economic platform was shabby, unrealistic and in need of revamping. He further called for the forming of a team charged with examining the possibility of joining the government, a proposal that garnered harsh responses from other party members.
Future MK Merav Michaeli (Photo: Ofer Amram)
Yachimovich summarized the meeting, saying: "We finished a good, meaningful and fruitful meeting and it was all in good spirits. I am happy to say there was across-the-board backing of our very clear cut decision not to join Netanyahu's government and to embrace the role of a fighting, yet responsible, opposition."
She added: "We struggle every hour of every day against the policies of Netanyahu and his ilk. There is no real difference between him and his partners; (Yair) Lapid, (Naftali) Bennett, Netanyahu, they all hold radical capitalistic outlooks."
The Labor's youth movement, The Young Guard,
welcomed party members as they arrived at the meeting and attempted to reinforce the decision not to join the coalition, shouting slogans such as "No to an austerity government" and "Not joining the privatization government."
The Young Garud (Photo: Ofer Amram)
MK Cabel, a possible contender for the party's chairmanship, said before the meeting that "there is a great difference between sitting in the opposition and internal party issues, one should not confuse them."
Labor Secretary-General Hilik Bar reiterated Yachimovich's decision, saying the party must sit in the opposition and make clear to the Israeli public that either Labor will lead the country or continue to be a fiery opposition. He said sitting in the government would be a continuation of the "historic mistake" for which the party is currently paying a heavy price.
Soon-to-be MK Merav Michaeli
said "my opinions are known, if there is a right-wing and capitalistic government then Labor must be in the opposition. However, with that said, if the prime minister invited us we should listen to what he has to say."
Rozental said, "I am only for opposition. The people have decided that we will sit in the opposition and so we shall."
Former protest movement leader and future MK Stav Shafir said: "We promised our voters (not to join) and there is no reason to sit in a government whose policy is opposed to ours, against which we protested and was the main reason I joined politics."
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