Five years ago, when Shelly Yachimovich, one of Israel’s most prominent journalists, announced her decision to run for a Knesset seat on the Labor Party ticket, many were surprised. Some questioned whether Yachimovich—the host of several of the country’s most popular television and radio shows, including the local version of Meet the Press—had what it takes to swim in the murky waters of Israeli politics. But Yachimovich proved to be just as tough-minded a parliamentarian as she’d been a reporter, carving a niche for herself as her party’s most prominent promoter of progressive legislation. When Ehud Barak resigned from Labor last month, leaving the party in tatters, many of Yachimovich’s former colleagues in the press named her as Barak’s most likely successor at the top.
Yesterday, Yachimovich made her intentions official: In a letter to her supporters, posted on her website, she announced her intentions to seek Labor’s leadership. “The challenge is immense,” she wrote. “To rescue the Labor Party from its crisis of values, of leadership, of public perception. I’m sure I can restore the hope to many circles of caring people craving change.”
For now, then, Yachimovich can safely be named the front runner; but the race is very far from having even begun. Her support base—numbering, according to her website, 7,000 activists—may be there, and she certainly surpasses some of her putative competitors in name recognition, but in the sound and the fury that is the struggle to replace Barak and restore the party, many surprises are likely to come up before the September 7 primary. Yachimovich, for example, could find herself out-organized by one of the party’s veterans, like its former head Amir Peretz, or sidelined entirely by an unexpected, thrilling newcomer. Let the games begin.