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A New Day for Labor?

Yachimovich looks to harness burgeoning anger

Marc Tracy
September 26, 2011
Shelly Yacimovich voting last weekend.(Jack Guez/AFP/Getty Images)
Shelly Yacimovich voting last weekend.(Jack Guez/AFP/Getty Images)

The election earlier this month of Shelly Yacimovich, a former journalist, as leader of Israel’s historic Labor Party prompted talk of … not much. Labor was reeling, its old head, Defense Minister Ehud Barak—also its last prime minister—having departed to form his own party and Labor having retreated into the opposition. Today, Labor has only eight out of 120 Knesset seats. The New York Times referred to “the decline of the Labor Party’s influence in matters of international diplomacy, as well as the political redefinition under way within the party and, more broadly, in Israeli society.”

Yet the first poll since the leadership election, from Haaretz, has dropped, and it shows Labor surging. If elections were held today, Labor could be expected to get around 20 seats. The flip-side being that it is taking much of its gains from Kadima, the centrist party one notch to the right of it; the parties that form the current center-right governing coalition—chiefly Likud, Yisraeli Beiteinu, and Shas—still approach a majority.

The question is whether Yacimovich, who has received criticism from her own party for not focusing on settlement construction, can actually harness the anger at more socioeconomic issues that drove this past summer’s tent protests and really take Israel’s founding party for a ride.

Marc Tracy is a staff writer at The New Republic, and was previously a staff writer at Tablet. He tweets @marcatracy.