Yachimovich's loss is Herzog's win

How did the ultimate No. 2 – MK Isaac Herzog – oust party strongwoman Shelly Yachimovich in one of Labor party's most lethargic internal elections. A story of party divided, failed leadership

Only two years and two months after stunning Amir Peretz and winning the elections for the Labor Party chairwomanship, Shelly Yachimovich has been ousted from the coveted position by MK Isaac Herzog.


Yachimovich's loss is made even more painful in light of her repeated claims of confidence regarding her imminent victory over a man who she and many assumed to be the quintessential 'number two.' At the time, she also enjoyed the support of numerous Labor MKs, but all that would disappear soon.


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Yachimovich arrived at the current race trailed by a long list of disappointments, and more importantly, disappointed party members.


הפריימריז הקודמים. הפעם בוז'י ניצח (צילום: צביקה טישלר)

Yachimovich with Peretz, Herzog at time of orginial victory (Photo: Zvika Tishler)


Upon entering political life in 2006 to assist a man who would later become her arch enemy, Amir Peretz, Yachimovich was considered a rising star in the skies of Israel's political scene. She excelled in legislation in a wide array of fields and was considered one of the first to push the social-economic discourse into the heart of the public debate.


In September 2011, she translated that momentum into political capital, winning the race for the party chairmanship. Yachimovich heralded in the winds of change in elderly Labor party, motivating scores of young people to join its ranks and generally helping the party recover from the rule of Ehud Barak – who left the party holding only eight Knesset seats.


 Shelly Yachimovich loses party chairmanship (Photo: Ofer Amram)
Shelly Yachimovich loses party chairmanship (Photo: Ofer Amram)


She was also aided by the social protest movement which seemed to echo the claims sounded by Yachimovich over the years, confirming her status as a game-changing figure in Israeli politics.


Yachimovich wished to ride the protest's momentum and be form an alternative to the government and thus placed two key protest movement members – MK Stav Shafir and former Student Union leader MK Itizk Shmuli – on the Labor's national election ticket. Shafir's election into the Knesset placed her as the youngest female to be ever elected to Israel's legislature.


Yachimovich casts fateful vote (Photo: Ofer Amram)
Yachimovich casts fateful vote (Photo: Ofer Amram)


But the stronger Yachimovich grew, the more her leadership began to crumble. This disaccord – which stemmed from internal strife over her aggressive management of the party – hindered Yachimovich's electability.


Her decision to go for the premiership, despite contrary advice, inspired a slew of internal party criticism, underpinning the issues threatening her pretention to run for top position.


Detractors claimed that her agenda lacked sufficient attention to the security and diplomatic issues facing Israel. They claimed one cannot run for the position of prime minister on a solely economic platform, and indeed Labor headed by Yachimovich managed to gain only 15 Knesset seats during the previous election. Such a result which was considered a failure despite its significant gain in relation to party's previous standing of 8 Knesset seats – the result of Ehud Barak's dramatic exit from the party together with a number of MKs.


During her time as Labor's chairwoman, Yachimovich locked horns with a number of close allies – the most prominent of which was Histradrut Labor Federation Chairman Ofer Eini, who did not miss a beat and used his union to mobilize support for Herzog. Also among this group is newly reelected Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai which Yachimovich failed to support during October's local elections and as a result threw his weight behind Herzog.


Herzog became 'people's person'

Now we can clearly say that Herzog's campaign for the party's leadership began during the previous election. While Yachimovich focused on social and economic issues, Herzog clearly reiterated time and time against his belief in a peace process as central to Labor's agenda and not something that can easily be left behind if Labor wishes to create an alternative to the country's currently leadership.


Herzog with wife Michal (Photo: Motti Kimchi)
Herzog with wife Michal (Photo: Motti Kimchi)


Planting the seeds for his chairmanship run, Herzog understood that divided opposition to Yachimovich would be to his disadvantage. So he worked ceaselessly, putting the screws on Eitan Cabal and Erel Marglit, who also considered running for the chairmanship, to unite with him and back his bid. Thus he consolidated support behind himself and could square off alone against Yachimovich.


Labor's new chairman also knew how to take advantage of his adversary's mistakes. Every time Yachimovich missteped, Herzog showed up and stepped up. Such for example, in Labor party branches where Yachimovich was disliked he appeared smiling, meeting party activist, rebranding himself as a people's person – a stark contrast to Yachimovich's independent almost soloist streak. He made special effort to bring those disappointed by Yachimovich into his ranks, making himself available to them.


The results of this field work were more than felt when he destroyed Yachimovich by a whooping 17%.


Yachimovich can find consolation in joining a long and respectable list of one-time party leaders who failed to secure reelection – such as Ehud Barak, Shimon Peres and Amram Mitzna.




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פרסום ראשון: 11.23.13, 13:02
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