Liberman, Kahlon vow not to join a coalition under Gabbay

Yisrael Beytenu leader says Zionist Union ‘doesn’t stand a chance,’ while Kulanu head says his party won’t be a ‘fig leaf in a left-wing government’

Zionist Union leader Avi Gabbay heads a faction meeting at the Knesset on October 30, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Zionist Union leader Avi Gabbay heads a faction meeting at the Knesset on October 30, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The leaders of the Kulanu and Yisrael Beytenu parties said Saturday that they would not join any possible government coalition headed by Avi Gabbay, casting doubt on the Zionist Union leader’s chances of eventually becoming prime minister.

“Avi Gabbay is an irrelevant person,” Yisrael Beytenu head Avigdor Liberman told Channel 2’s “Meet the Press.” “There are at least two parties, Yisrael Beytenu and Kulanu, that would never join a Gabbay coalition.”

“He can’t have a coalition when both of those parties are not involved,” Liberman said. “He doesn’t stand a chance.”

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman leads a Yisrael Beytenu party faction meeting at the Knesset in Jerusalem on October 30, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Gabbay, who helped Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon found Kulanu and later served as environment minister, resigned from his post and quit the party last year in protest of the coalition deal with Yisrael Beytenu that made Liberman defense minister. He later won the leadership primary in the Labor Party, the larger of hte two components in the Zionist Union faction (the second is Tzipi Livni’s Hatnua).

In a separate interview with Channel 2, Kahlon said that his party would not sit in a Zionist Union-led government. Asked whether he was angry with Gabbay, Kahlon said he was “disappointed.”

“I am not angry. I am disappointed with his conduct,” he said.

Kahlon also cited his differences with the Zionist Union over the future of the West Bank and East Jerusalem in a future peace deal, saying that unlike the left-leaning party he supports “the Land of Israel and a unified Jerusalem” and that, therefore, “Kulanu will not join a left-wing Labor government.”

“I can tell you this in the clearest way possible: Kulanu will not be a fig leaf in a left-wing government,” he said.

Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon leads a faction meeting of his Kulanu party at the Knesset on October 30, 2017.
(Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Despite Labor’s traditional support for evacuating West Bank settlers under a future deal with the Palestinians, Gabbay said last month he would not uproot settlements under a peace agreement, raising hackles from lawmakers from the Zionist Union.

Gabbay’s comments were part of an ongoing rightward shift in Labor that has intensified since he was elected party leader in July, as part of a bid to pick up support from centrist voters.

Gabbay also said he would not sit in a coalition with the Joint List, the 13-member Arab party.

Without the Joint List, Yisrael Beytenu and Kulanu, Gabbay would struggle to form a governing coalition, as the right-wing Likud and Jewish Home parties appear unlikely to join a Labor-led government, while Yair Lapid’s centrist Yesh Atid party has placed ahead of the Zionist Union in polls and may buck at playing second fiddle.

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