After months of refusing to address the issue, losing her number 3 amir Peretz, who defected to join Tzipi livni’s party, Labor leader Shelly Yechimovich explicitly stated on Thursday that she will not join a coalition headed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
"I aspire to be elected prime minister, but if I'm not, I will head the opposition," she said at a meeting attended by Labor Knesset members and candidates.
Yechimovich told reporters the decision came in response to the radical turn that Likud's positions have taken recently.
"Netanyahu is planning a social and economic hell," she said. "There radicalization is evident in every aspect. (We're seeing) an economical jungle, and deep contempt for the rule of law. I can't imagine what will happen to the rule of law if Netanyahu is reelected."
The Labor party released a statement prior to Yecimovich's press conference, saying that, "Following the recent escalation and radicalization in the Likud Beitenu's positions in all of the fields - economic and social, diplomatic and security, the rule of law and democracy - the Labor party remains the only alternative to changing the leadership and will not sit in Netanyahu's government," the statement read.
"The Labor party is determined to fight to change the leadership, and will make every effort to lead a coalition that will be an alternative to the extreme Right government that is forming, sponsored by the competition between [Bayit Yehudi leader] Bennett and Netanyahu-Lieberman on who is more extreme," the party said.
Last month, Yechimovich refused to rule out joining Netanyahu’s government after the January 22 election, but said chances she will be part of the coalition are slim.
“We cannot reject a scenario in which the Labor Party will be very big, and Netanyahu will become a peace-loving social democrat,” she said. “Of course, this is an imaginary scenario, but no party is making a sweeping, total commitment [not to join a Netanyahu-led government] other than Meretz, and I respect them for it.”
Yechimovich explained her previously refusal coming out with a definite statement about her post-election plans with regards to joining the coalition, despite pressure. "I refused to reject the possibility of joining Netanyahu. I made sure to say that it was unlikely, but I didn't reject it," she said. "But this isn’t the Likud that we all know."
"Given the evident radicalization in the positions held by the Likud-Yisrael Beiteinu on all issues of national importance, including the economy, social matters, state policy, defense, rule of law and democracy, the Labor Party remains the only alternative to the current government and therefore will not join Netanyahu's coalition," one Labor source told Ynet.
Chairman of the Likud Beitenu Election Response team, MK Gilad Erdan retorted: “Just to make it clear: Yechimovich is knowingly lying. She received a blanket denial to her fairy tales about budget cuts that are purely a product of her wild imagination.”
Yair Lapid, the chairman of the Yesh Atid party, charged that Yechimovich’s declaration was “hysterical.”
Meretz MK Ilan Gilon joked that Yechimovich’s turnabout represented progress of a sort, According to Maariv. “If Yechimovich continues in this direction she will go back on her support for funding the settlements, join the ranks of human rights in Israel, and even agree to be called left-wing,” Gilon said.
Hatnua Spokesman MK Yoel Hasson reacted to Yechimovich’s declaration, saying "Yechimovich has given up and decided that she is going to the opposition, and from there she won't be able to advance a thing.”
“Unfortunately, Yachimovich has not committed to support her biggest chance in creating a coalition – Tzipi Livni,” he added