Labor chief tells EU envoys he ‘deeply’ supports two-state solution

Avi Gabbay has previously said ‘united’ Jerusalem more important than peace deal, settlements need not be evacuated

Marissa Newman is The Times of Israel political correspondent.

Labor party chairman Avi Gabbay (third from left) addresses European ambassadors in Israel on December 15, 2017 (courtesy)
Labor party chairman Avi Gabbay (third from left) addresses European ambassadors in Israel on December 15, 2017 (courtesy)

Labor party chairman Avi Gabbay on Friday told European Union ambassadors in Israel he was “deeply” committed to the two-state solution, while echoing the Israeli government positions on Jerusalem and Iran.

Since becoming the left-leaning party’s chairman in July, Gabbay has said settlements need not be evacuated in a future peace deal and maintained that keeping Jerusalem undivided was more important than reaching an agreement with the Palestinians.

Those statements, at odds with Labor’s traditionally dovish stances, were seen as a bid to move the party rightward in a bid to swell its ranks.

On Friday, the Labor party chief also told the European diplomats there was little disagreement in Israel — nearly “no coalition and no opposition” — on matters of security and on Jerusalem, according to a Hebrew-language statement from his spokesperson.

Gabbay said he was “deeply” committed to two states and hoped the US recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital would not result in a deadlock, according to the statement.

Labor party leader Avi Gabbay (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

He also echoed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Iran, urging amendments to the nuclear deal and additional sanctions on the Islamic Republic.

Last week, Gabbay told Hadashot news a “united” Jerusalem under Israeli sovereignty is more important than clinching a peace deal with the Palestinians.

That comment was nearly identical to a remark by right-wing Jewish Home leader Naftali Bennett in June at a Haaretz conference. Bennett, in his address, had said “a unified Jerusalem is preferable to a diplomatic [peace] deal,” setting off jeers and boos from the left-wing crowd.

In October, Gabbay said he would not evacuate West Bank settlements as part of a peace deal with the Palestinians. His remark was later criticized by a number of lawmakers from the Zionist Union, the Knesset faction incorporating Labor and Tzipi Livni’s Hatnua party.

Days later, he called the settlement enterprise “the beautiful and devoted face of Zionism.”

Despite Gabbay’s efforts to attract right-leaning voters, a Channel 10 news poll last month said Labor would win 18 seats if elections were held, six fewer than Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud and four fewer than Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid.

Like Gabbay, Lapid has tacked rightward on a number of issues, in a bid to pick up support from more moderate members of the ruling Likud party.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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