You want seats with that? 8 things to know for January 3
Israel media review

You want seats with that? 8 things to know for January 3

Avi Gabbay is hoping posturing will help him win back some cred for Labor, the right and left co-mingle, and an Israeli xenophobe makes a martyr out of a far-right demagogue

Head of the Zionist Union political party Avi Gabbay leads a faction meeting in the Knesset in Jerusalem on March 12, 2018. (Miriam Alster/FLASH90)
Head of the Zionist Union political party Avi Gabbay leads a faction meeting in the Knesset in Jerusalem on March 12, 2018. (Miriam Alster/FLASH90)

1. Avi Gabbay is not effing around: At least that’s the impression one gets from the cover of Yedioth Ahronoth, where the embattled Labor Party leader glowers, looking as gangster as one can in a rapidly gentrifying Jerusalem industrial zone.

  • Gabbay is trying to rehab his image after a disastrous press appearance in which he booted Tzipi Livni from the Zionist Union (thus dissolving said union) without giving her warning, and drew comparisons to an abusive husband.
  • In the interview with the paper, a full version of which will be published Friday, Gabbay claims he sent Livni packing because she wouldn’t commit to not sitting in a government under Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, but also says the political marriage just wasn’t working: ”There was no faith there.”
  • Gabbay may be straight outta Talpiot, but he’s not the only gangsta running for Knesset.

2. Poll dancing: Unfortunately for Gabbay, it may take more than some softball interviews and tough guy poses to get back in the saddle. Polls published Wednesday and Thursday show his Livni-less party, once the Israeli hegemon, reaching new lows.

  • Two polls, one by Hadashot news and the other by the Kan public broadcaster, found that if elections were held today Labor would win only eight or seven seats, respectively, down from the nine seats predicted in polls earlier this week.
  • A poll published Thursday in Israel Hayom also shows Gabbay down to 7 seats, but with Livni’s Hatnua getting into the Knesset with four seats. The Hadashot poll showed her getting as many as five seats, meaning the alliance may actually be slightly stronger if they are apart.
  • Then again, the Kan poll left her out of the Knesset altogether, meaning the move could end up weakening that bloc.
  • Israel Hayom clearly lays out its agenda for running the poll: showing that the New Right splitting off Jewish Home actually weakened the right, with Likud sinking to 28 seats. However, the numbers also show both New Right (8) and Jewish Home (4) getting in, giving them a total of 12 seats instead of the eight they currently have together. But the survey also says Shas would fall below the threshold, meaning the bloc would lose at least four votes and maybe more.

3. Gabye: Gabbay is also facing a resurgent mutiny from with Labor, with MKs already unhappy with his leadership re-energized against him. Eitan Cabel, who has publicly feuded with Gabbay, calls on Thursday for him to step down, leading the party to label him an “underminer,” Haaretz reports.

  • The paper’s Jonathan Lis notes that Livni was booted just as rumors were swirling that she was preparing to leave and take some Labor mutineers with her, a move that was essentially quashed by her being kicked out instead, though a split was the last thing she wanted to lead anyway.
  • “A Hatnuah source said that Livni had prevented a split in Labor last week, and that Labor Knesset member Eitan Cabel was the only one who realized that without Livni, the initiative was hopeless,” he reports.

4. Up is down, right is left: There is now speculation that Livni could join up with former Netanyahu acolyte Moshe Ya’alon, bringing together the two erstwhile Likud members.

  • Ya’alon, a kibbutz member who is associated with the right wing, is a strange bird himself, while Livni comes from a family that used to be Likud royalty and still regularly quotes Ze’ev Jabotinsky.
  • Meanwhile, Israel Hayom’s Amnon Lord, no left-winger he, bemoans the Labor Party’s demise.
  • “The disintegration of the Labor Party marks the disintegration of the entire political system, and this is the gravest danger to democracy in Israel,” he writes.
  • In Haaretz, columnist Gideon Levy dismisses any notion that there is any difference between the parties’ ideologies: “What is going on in our political system ahead of the upcoming election can be described like this: Right A versus Right B, a split in Right C, a possible merger in Right D, and a new glimmer of hope in Right E.”
  • With Gabi Ashkenazi going from being courted by Labor to being rumored to consider joining Likud, it’s hard not to see that he may have a point.

5. Editor needed: New Right may be called that in English (or sometimes the clunky Hayemin Hehadash), but online its website is

  • Why? ToI’s Raoul Wootliff explains
  • The party’s English woes don’t end there, with an Anglos for New Yemin poster misspelling the word “led.” Luckily, they just signed on Caroline Glick, a former Jerusalem Post editor, to join their Knesset list, who can maybe make use of her red pen.
  • Glick, who also writes for Breitbart, is reviled across a wide strata of non right-wing Israelis for her far-right views. But a comment on Twitter by Yedioth columnist/troll Ranaan Shaked — “You think there is some electoral force to the amusing sub-stream of scattered Israeli-Americans that came here from their homeland – where one doubts if they could have gotten a job that doesn’t include asking ‘You want fries with that?’ — has even some haters coming to her defense.

6. Iran, whatevs: US President Donald Trump is being criticized in Israel for commenting that Iran can do what it wants in Syria.

  • “It is sad that he is not attentive to intelligence materials,” an unnamed Israeli source tells the Ynet news website. “I am quite simply in shock.” The comments echo those of Rep. Ted Deutsch, who said that Trump “lacks such a basic understanding of strategic foreign policy, it’s astounding,” according to Haaretz.
  • The juxtaposition of Trump’s statements with the gauche “sanctions are coming” poster sitting on his cabinet table is not lost on some.

7. I would do anything for Israel, but I won’t do that: Pro-Trump, pro-Netanyahu Israel Hayom plays down the comments, instead highlighting Trump saying that Iran as we knew it is no more and a senior Israeli official saying Israel got 7 of 8 things it asked for from US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

  • What the one thing is that Pompeo won’t do remains a Meatloaf-esque mystery.
  • Likud Minister Gilad Erdan also rushes to Trump’s defense:

8. Farewell to a fecund Communist: Yedioth rounds up some stats from the 20th Knesset as it enters the history books/trash bin.

  • Winner of the most laws passed is Jewish Home/New Right’s Shuli Moalem-Refaeli, with a whopping 13, followed by UTJ’s Moshe Gafni (12) and Bezalel Smotrich of Jewish Home (11), showing just how right-wing this Knesset was.
  • Meanwhile the lawmaker with the most proposed laws was Dov Khenin who put 455 (!) bills on the table. That comes out to around one every two days, taking into account recesses during the almost four years of the Knesset.
  • Alas, Khenin, the sole Jew in the Joint List, will not be back to break his record in the 21st Knesset, announcing his retirement this week.
  • Yedioth’s Einav Schiff praises him as a dying breed in a time when lawmaking seems more akin to clowning: “His departure is another sign of the disintegration of the Knesset’s good standing.”
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