Former Labor party leader Avi Gabbay has been appointed CEO of the Cellcom phone company, marking his return to the telecommunications industry after a brief stint in politics.
Cellcom’s board of directors approved Gabbay’s appointment on Saturday. He was selected over two other candidates vying for the position, both of them senior figures in the company.
Gabbay is expected to take up his new post in the coming weeks. He will take over from Nir Stern, who is becoming CEO of the Paz Oil Company.
Gabbay served as CEO of the national phone company, Bezeq, in 2007-2013. He also in the past held the CEO position at Bezeq International, a subsidiary offering international telecom services.
Many current senior figures in Israel’s telecommunications market worked under Gabbay when he was at Bezeq.
David Mizrahi, current CEO of Bezeq, and Ran Guron, the CEO of the Pelephone telecommunications company, were both formerly subordinates to Gabbay at Bezeq. Itzik Benvenisti, CEO of the Partner telecommunications company, formerly replaced Gabbay as the CEO of Bezeq International.
After leaving Bezeq in 2013, Gabbay helped found the Kulanu political party in 2015. Although not elected to the Knesset, he was appointed environmental protection minister under the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. He resigned the position in 2016 and later announced he was joining the Labor party.
Gabby took over center-left party’s leadership when he beat previous leader Issac Herzog in primaries in 2017. Herzog was appointed chairman of the Jewish Agency for Israel in 2018.
As leader, Gabbay had a fractious relationship with party stalwarts who had trouble accepting an outsider who tried to change Labor’s direction. Gabbay admitted public infighting cost the party support, saying voters told him that instead of casting their traditional ballot for Labor they voted for other parties in a bid to oust Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu even though they believed in Labor’s values.
Gabbay came under increasing pressure to step down after the party won only six seats out of the Knesset’s 120 in the April 2019 elections, the least ever for the party or its Mapai predecessor, which led Israel for its first 30 years.
He faced even more criticism after it was revealed that he had considered joining Netanyahu in a coalition to form a government — a move he had pledged repeatedly he would never make — although he eventually decided against it.
In June 2019 Gabbay announced he was resigning. Labor is currently headed by MK Amir Peretz.