Among the reasons that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu closed a deal with Avigdor Liberman over Yitzchak Herzog, political commentators said over the weekend, was because Netanyahu feared that Herzog would not be able to “deliver” Labor MKs as he expected. According to Channel One, Herzog had demanded no fewer than 18 ministries, deputy ministries and Knesset committees for the 24 MKs in Zionist Camp.
But there was a great amount of dissent in the party over the deal, and Netanyahu was becoming concerned that Herzog would not be able to deliver “the goods.” In fact media reports last week said that Herzog would not be bringing more than 10 MKs into the party, and even many of them were very unclear about their intentions. In the end, the analysts said, Netanyahu decided to go with the “sure thing” – a party of 6 MKs where the words of the boss, Liberman, were final.
The leader of the party’s anti-join-the-government faction was Shelly Yechimovich, who threatened daily that the party would fall apart, and that Herzog would be ejected from Zionist Camp if he dared to join the government. Herzog was said to fear an open party meeting in which Yechimovich would rally the MKs opposed to the deal, creating a black mark on Zionist Camp’s unity that voters would no doubt remember for a long time.
But Herzog actually had nothing to fear, it now emerges. Yechimovich would not have been able to hijack the party meeting to approve the Netanyahu-Herzog deal – because she was not even in the country. On Motzoei Shabbos, rumors began to circulate that Yechimovich had conducted the entire campaign against joining the government not from her office in Tel Aviv, but from Taiwan, where she has been visiting for over a week.
Yechimovich is in Taiwan for the inauguration of Tsai Ing-wen, Taiwan’s first female president, who was installed in office in Friday. The two are personal friends, and Yechimovich was invited to attend. However, she kept the trip secret from everyone, including close friends, and posted nothing on her social media channels, where she is usually very active – all to give party mates the impression that she was in Israel and would disrupt the meeting where Herzog would ask MKs to vote to join the government.
Yechimovich’s office said Sunday that she had not been trying to keep her trip secret at all. “All the media outlets that interviewed me last week knew where I was. I left only after it became clear that a meeting was not going to be called. I had a very good trip and met many people, and I was able to be very productive – working in Taiwan during the day, and speaking to the media in Israel at night. For those who are concerned, not to worry – I am available to assist in all challenges.”