The chairwoman of the Labor party, MK Shelly Yechimovich, officially launched her campaign for the premiership on Friday.
Channel 2 News reported that in a weekly e-mail she sent to supporters, Yechimovich wrote, “This is a new political situation: I'm facing off against Netanyahu for the premiership.”
She added that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu “has not been anointed as king and can be toppled.”
“The Labor party under my leadership has become the most significant alternative to replace Netanyahu,” wrote Yechimovich. “The results of the primaries in Kadima strengthened us, and what was clear before has now further intensified: we the largest party in our camp.”
“The greatest confrontation is about the country's leadership,” wrote the Labor party leader. “That’s where Netanyahu awaits us, the man under whose leadership the disparities in the country grew to alarming proportions, an extreme capitalist who systematically shatters the middle class in Israel. Only the Labor party under my leadership has a true and deep ideological answer as well as the tools, the power, the support and the ability to bring him down.”
Yechimovich’s announcement comes just several days after MK Shaul Mofaz was elected to be the new chairman of the Kadima party. Mofaz, a former Chief of Staff and Defense Minister, beat rival MK Tzipi Livni, who has headed the party since 2008.
Polls have shown that Kadima, currently the Knesset’s largest party with 28 seats, is headed for a fall in the next elections. A Channel 10 poll released after the Kadima primaries found that, were elections held today, Kadima under Mofaz would win just 15 seats in the Knesset.
Most of the seats Kadima will lose will likely be divided between Netanyahu’s Likud, Labor, and a yet-to-be formed party headed by former journalist Yair Lapid.
While the Likud party would still win the election with 32 seats, the poll found that Yechimovich’s party would grow to 15 seats.
Historically in Israel, the rivalry for the premiership was between the Labor party and Likud. This changed when Kadima was founded in 2005, when then-Prime Minister Ariel Sharon defected from Likud to carry out a unilateral Israeli withdrawal from Gaza. The move resulted in three large parties vying for votes.
In the 2009 elections Kadima won 28 seats to Likud's 27, but chairwoman Tzipi Livni failed to form a coalition resulting in Netanyahu being tapped for the premiership.
In those same elections, the Labor party headed by Defense Minister Ehud Barak crashed and was reduced to just 13 seats, making it the fourth largest party behind Kadima, Likud and Yisrael Beiteinu.
(Arutz Sheva’s North American Desk is keeping you updated until the start of Shabbat in New York. The time posted automatically on all Arutz Sheva articles, however, is Israeli time.)