Labor bemoans ‘worst result ever’ after polls show historic failure

Party leader Avi Gabbay admits ‘huge disappointment’ but does not comment on calls to resign, as exit polls give Labor between 6 and 8 seats in elections

Labor party chairman Avi Gabbay (podium) flanked by Tal Russo (right) and former Labor leader Amir Peretz (left) addresses supporters and media as the results in the general elections are announced in Tel Aviv, on April 09, 2019 (FLASH90)
Labor party chairman Avi Gabbay (podium) flanked by Tal Russo (right) and former Labor leader Amir Peretz (left) addresses supporters and media as the results in the general elections are announced in Tel Aviv, on April 09, 2019 (FLASH90)

Labor Party leaders lamented the faction’s apparently poor showing in Tuesday’s national elections, with exit polls predicting it would fall to historic lows.

The party, which led Israel for its first 30 years, was given between six and eight seats in three exit polls.

Party head Avi Gabbay called the exit poll results “a huge disappointment” and “a real blow to our electoral power,” but did not address calls for him to step down.

“It’s not easy. It’s not easy for us and not easy for me. This is not the way I had hoped to end this evening,” he said.

Former Labor Party leader and MK Shelly Yachimovich said the elections were a dark day for the party.

“This is a heavy and painful result, the worst result ever for the Labor party,” Yachimovich said.

“The Zionist left has suffered a harsh blow and it demands a thorough review after tonight,” she said. “We have a long road ahead of us.”

Veteran lawmaker Eitan Cabel repeated his calls on Gabbay to resign.

Shelly Yachimovich leads a State Control Committee meeting in the Knesset on December 31, 2018. (Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90)

In the last election, Labor, running together with Tzipi Livni’s Hatnuah  were the second largest party.

But ahead of the elections Gabbay announced on live TV the termination of Labor’s ties with Hatnua, thus disbanding a partnership that constituted the Zionist Union, as Livni sat by his side, without having been given advance notice.

The move was widely slammed and was seen as a major cause for the loss of support for Gabbay.

But the party also saw much of its support flee to Blue and White as its voters looked for a way to oust Benjamin Netanyahu.

The results point to a sad decline for the party that was instrumental in establishing the State of Israel.

The Israeli Labor Party was formed in 1968 by a merger of three parties, one of which was David Ben-Gurion’s Mapai party which was founded in 1930. In the years leading up to the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948, Mapai was the de facto leadership of the Jewish community and played a key role in the creation of the state.

In this May 14, 1948 photo, cabinet ministers of the new State of Israel are seen at a ceremony at the Tel Aviv Art Museum marking the creation of the new state, during prime minister David Ben-Gurion’s speech declaring independence. (AP Photo)

Labor remained Israel’s unchallenged ruling party until 1977, when the Likud wrested the premiership away. Since then it held power for a total of eight years, two of them as part of a unity government with the Likud. That period included the 1990s Oslo accords, negotiated by then-prime minister Yitzhak Rabin and then-foreign minister Shimon Peres.

Rabin was assassinated by a Jewish extremist in 1995, and the Oslo accords remain highly controversial among Israelis.

Ehud Barak’s victory in the 1999 elections and his two-year premiership were the last time an Israeli coalition was led by Labor, which has been in decline since.

Agencies contributed to this report 

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