Ex-Kulanu minister to challenge Herzog for Labor leadership
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Ex-Kulanu minister to challenge Herzog for Labor leadership

Avi Gabbay, who headed the Environmental Protection Ministry, joins running ahead of July primaries

Environmental Protection Minister Avi Gabbay seen during a committee meeting at the Knesset during a discussion on a controversial natural gas deal which was approved by the Israeli government. December 2, 2015. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)
Environmental Protection Minister Avi Gabbay seen during a committee meeting at the Knesset during a discussion on a controversial natural gas deal which was approved by the Israeli government. December 2, 2015. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Former environmental protection minister Avi Gabbay officially announced on Saturday he would challenge Isaac Herzog for the leadership of the Labor Party in the July primaries.

The former minister of the center-right Kulanu party, who resigned from his post last year in protest of a coalition deal that saw the Yisrael Beytenu party enter the government, announced his candidacy on Channel 2’s 8 p.m. news broadcast.

In a follow-up Facebook post, Gabbay said he decided to run for the Labor leadership “to transform it from a party with correct principles to a party that wins elections.”

He touted the party under his leadership as the only credible alternative to oust Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud from power.

Along with Gabbay, former party leader Amir Peretz and MK Omer Barlev have formally announced they will contend for the party leadership. Activist Eldad Yaniv and MK Erel Margalit have announced that they are considering bids, as is veteran party MK Eitan Cabel.

Barlev, a former head of an elite IDF commando unit, on Friday became the third Labor Party member to formally announce his candidacy.

“The State of Israel, as well as the Labor Party, deserves honest, brave, dedicated, pugnacious and a united leadership. The time has come to fight again for our place leading the country,” he wrote.

“The State of Israel needs to change direction. The State of Israel needs courageous leadership,” he wrote.

Labor Party leader Shelly Yachimovich (left) and former party leader Amir Peretz (right) in 2011. (photo credit: Miriam Alster/Flash 90)
Then Labor Party leader Shelly Yachimovich (left) and former party leader Amir Peretz (right) in 2011. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

There was speculation that former party leader Shelly Yachimovich would also mount another bid for leadership but that was quashed when she announced in February that she will seek to become the head of the Histadrut labor federation in the organization’s elections in May.

On Thursday recordings were leaked which appeared to show that Yachimovich made a pact with Cabel to support him in a bid for party leadership in exchange for his backing in the Histadrut elections. Yachimovich and Cabel both denied they had made any such deal.

Gabbay resigned in May 2016 in protest of Avigdor Liberman’s appointment as defense minister and launched a scathing attack on the coalition, accusing it of leading Israel along a path to destruction, wrecking US ties and silencing dissent on the offshore national gas deal and other matters.

At the time, he said the removal of Moshe Ya’alon, a former IDF chief of staff, as defense minister and his replacement by Liberman was a step too far.

Gabbay joined the Labor Party in late December.

Earlier on Saturday, Ya’alon announced he was creating a new political party to challenge Netanyahu in the next elections.

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