Shelly Yacimovich is Labor’s first female leader since Golda Meir in 1969 and is credited with reviving the struggling party, which, after decades as one of Israel's two dominant parties, captured only eight seats in the current parliament. But this time, Labor is expected to be second only to Likud.
Ms. Yacimovich, former host of the Israeli version of “Meet the Press,” was elected to the Knesset in 2006 and has made a name for herself by championing socioeconomic causes, including fair access to housing, education, and healthcare.
Yacimovich’s work has tapped into Israeli frustration with the widening income gap in the country – already one of the most pronounced in the world, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.
While the socioeconomic protests that drew hundreds of thousands of Israelis to the streets in 2011 have since died down, 43 percent of likely voters say economic issues such as the cost of living and housing prices will be the most important issue facing the next government, according to a recent poll by the The Times of Israel.
In a distant second, 16 percent chose Israel’s relationship with the Palestinians. Yacimovich has expressed support for a two-state solution but, perhaps because she is seen as lacking security credentials, she has remained largely silent on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the Iranian threat.
Despite speculation that she would join a Netanyahu government, Yacimovich has pledged to remain outside a Likud-led coalition. But she has not been able to unite other center-left parties into a bloc that could defeat Netanyahu.