MK Shelly Yechimovich
MK Shelly Yechimovich Flash 90

In an unusual move, which was criticized by some leftist circles, Labor party chairwoman MK Shelly Yechimovich gave an interview to Arutz Sheva last week, in which she expressed her appreciation towards Jewish residents of Judea and Samaria.

Unlike previous Labor leaders, Yechimovich has for the most part avoided talking about her position regarding peace with the Palestinian Authority, and any possible land concessions that may go along with it, and has chosen to focus on her desire for social justice in Israel. She spoke to Arutz Sheva in the past but conditioned the interview on its focusing on social issues.

This time, however, Yechimovich addressed the political issues and said, “My worldview comes without hostility or incitement. I have an appreciation for ideological groups (such as the Jewish residents of Judea and Samaria –ed.) and any political process has to be carried out with a national consensus and not out of hate speech and contempt.”

Insisting that her party is a center-left party and not a leftist party, Yechimovich even went as far as to state that she supports a solution with the Palestinian Authority that would keep a majority of the Jewish residents of Judea and Samaria in their homes.

“To say that the Labor party is a leftist party is an historical injustice,” she claimed. “The Labor party has always derived its strength from being a centrist party, a party which strives for peace in a pragmatic way rather than by dreaming.”

She added, “The pragmatic approach of the Labor party is a two-state solution, a permanent settlement with the Palestinians. Determining borders, swapping territories and maintaining settlement blocs that will keep 80% of the settlers in their homes. The opposite of such a formula is a bi-national state that poses a danger to a democratic Jewish state.”

Yechimovich stressed once again that her main platform is not the political-security one but rather the social one.

"For too many years, the public debate was based only on right or left, the whole land of Israel and not the whole land of Israel, and the discussion was narrow,” she said, adding, “It is an important and decisive discussion, but still within the boundaries there are neglected and abandoned people and we should hold a deep discussion on the differences between the rich and the poor and about the concern of the State towards all its citizens.

“We set aside all these discussions and had only a political discussion and I don’t accept that,” noted Yechimovich. “I try to create a shared vision that will keep us as a people in the country, even if it is not popular. In this election it is time to vote not only about the political agenda and vote for us, and I am doing everything to ensure that happens.”

Leftist parties, particularly Meretz, have criticized Yechimovich for being “too far right” since her views on the peace process appear to not be that much different than those of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu. Yechimovich, in fact, has in the past said she does not rule out joining a Likud-led government and has chosen to highlight the differences between her and Netanyahu from a socio-economic point of view.

She has criticized the Israeli media over its ongoing incitement against the hareidi-religious Jews. Her comments came in the wake of overhyped media reports several months ago about the gender segregation among hareidim.

When Yechimovich was elected Labor party head last year, she said that she saw an alliance between Labor and religious parties as “natural,” pointing to previous governments where both Agudath Israel and the National Religious Party were members of Labor-led governments.

After being chosen Labor head, Yechimovich told Kol Chai Radio, in response to a question about what kind of government she would try to organize in the next election, that she “definitely sees [hareidi and religious parties] as worthy partners,” despite the fact that there was a “wide ideological gulf between myself and the hareidim.”

Meretz is planning to attack Labor during the election campaign by criticizing Yechimovich for being “too nice” to religious Israelis.

Yesh Atid chairman Yair Lapid, however, has criticized Yechimovich for being “too far left” in terms of her social policies and has ruled out joining a center-left bloc headed by Yechimovich for that reason.