Seeking to boost security cred, Gabbay gives Labor No. 2 spot to ex-general

Lawmakers hail addition of Tal Russo, a former IDF Southern Command chief, who joins the struggling party two days before deadline

Maj. Gen. (res.) Tal Russo. (Government Press Office)
Maj. Gen. (res.) Tal Russo. (Government Press Office)

The Labor Party announced on Tuesday the addition of retired general Tal Russo to its ranks, giving the opposition faction a fresh candidate with extensive defense credentials for April’s Knesset elections.

A party source confirmed to The Times of Israel that Russo would be given the number two place on its electoral slate, which along with the 10th and 16th spots is reserved for a candidate of Labor chief Avi Gabbay’s choice.

Russo, a major general, served as the head of the army’s Southern Command before retiring from active duty in 2013.

In that role, Russo oversaw 2012’s Operation Pillar of Defense, an eight-day aerial offensive against Palestinian terror groups in the Gaza Strip that began with the targeted killing of Hamas military chief Ahmad Jabari.

Labor said Gabbay and Russo would hold a joint press conference Wednesday afternoon, a day before the deadline to present final candidate slates to the Central Elections Committee.

Then defense minister Ehud Barak (L) speaks with then IDF Southern Command chief Tal Russo. (Government Press Office)

“This is a worthy man who has served the country his entire life and contributed greatly to its security. His joining [of the party] gives important diversity to the list,” Labor MK and opposition leader Shelly Yachimovich said in a statement.

Fellow Labor MK Itzik Shmuli offered similar praise of Russo and said he was not bothered that the addition would mean he would be third on the party’s slate after winning last week’s primary.

“It is now necessary to put aside any personal interest and to place national and party considerations before everything,” Shmuli said in a statement.

MK Stav Shaffir, who finished second after Shmuli in the primary, also hailed Russo’s military experience and said he would be a “partner in our struggle for Israel’s security and a Zionist future.”

Labor Party chief Avi Gabbay (C) and MKs Stav Shapir (R) and Itzik Shmuli attend a party meeting in Tel Aviv on February 13, 2019. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

Labor’s pickup of Russo comes a day after the mayor of the southern city of Beersheba and a former Yesh Atid lawmaker turned down offers from Gabbay of guaranteed places on the party’s slate.

Since holding its primary last week, Labor has seen a bump in the polls but is still projected to fall well short of the 19 seats it currently holds in the 120-member Knesset.

Gabbay, a former minister for the Kulanu party, has faced considerable criticism from a number of Labor lawmakers in recent months over his stewardship of the party amid its sagging electoral strength.

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