Labor head rules out joining coalition with Netanyahu, Liberman

Avi Gabbay denies moving his party rightwards, say he’ll unveil plan for two-state solution next week

Zionist Union head Avi Gabbay leads a faction meeting at the Knesset on January 15, 2018. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Zionist Union head Avi Gabbay leads a faction meeting at the Knesset on January 15, 2018. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Labor party head Avi Gabbay said Friday he would not sit in a coalition with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “in any situation,” rejecting claims he is moving his dovish party to the right.

Gabbay also said he would not serve in a government with Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman, labeling the Yisrael Beytenu party leader “corrupt,” Hadashot TV news reported.

Gabbay, who served as environmental protection minister for the Kulanu party, quit the government in protest following Liberman’s appointment as defense chief in 2016.

Speaking at a Dead Sea conference of contractors, Gabbay also reiterated his October vow not join a coalition that includes the Joint (Arab) List.

He has since then made a number of remarks suggesting he was seeking to move Labor to the center in a bid to attract support from more hawkish voters, including saying he would not evacuate West Bank settlements under a peace deal and that the left “forgot what it means to be a Jew,” an allusion to a 1997 hot mic comment by Netanyahu to venerated Rabbi Yitzhak Kaduri.

Zionist Union chair Avi Gabbay (center) tours the Gaza border with Amiram Levin (second from right) and other members of his party, November 21, 2017. (Courtesy)

Gabbay denied he was shifting the center-left Labor to the right, telling the conference he will present his plan for reaching a two-state solution next week.

According to a Haaretz report Friday, the resolution calling for “separation from the Palestinians on [the] basis of the principle of two-states for two people” will be presented at the Labor party conference taking place the next two weeks.

Having ruled out serving alongside Netanyahu, Liberman, or the Joint List, Gabbay was mum on who he would sit in a coalition with.

“I don’t reveal the moves before negotiations,” he said.

While Gabbay has worked to position himself as a candidate for prime minister, his path to forming a coalition is beset with difficulty.

Both Liberman and Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon, who is head of Kulanu-appointed Gabbay environmental protection minister, have ruled out joining a Gabbay-led government.

Gabbay would also likely have trouble convincing MK Yair Lapid to join a coalition he heads, as the centrist Yesh Atid party leader is also presenting himself as an alternative to Netanyahu, and is working to pick up voters on the right.

Although polls taken shortly after Gabbay was elected Labor chief in July had the Zionist Union — an alliance of Labor and Hatnua — finishing second in elections after Likud, it has since slumped to third, with a Hadashot TV news survey earlier this month putting it well behind Likud and Yesh Atid, who polled neck-and-neck.

read more:
Never miss breaking news on Israel
Get notifications to stay updated
You're subscribed