Israel's Newly Crowned Labor Leader: 'The Campaign to Replace PM Netanyahu Starts Today'

'Every person who joins strengthens our hope for change,' says Avi Gabbay, winner of the final round of the party primary

Avi Gabbay during a press conference a day after he was elected Labor Party chief.
Tomer Appelbaum

“The campaign to replace Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu starts today,” declared Avi Gabbay, the new chairman of Israel's Labor Party, at a press conference at his campaign headquarters in Tel Aviv. He was speaking Tuesday, the day after he defeated MK Amir Peretz in the party primary runoff.

“Israel has announced new elections, as far as we’re concerned. We will replace Netanyahu and win the 30 Knesset seats needed,” said Gabbay.

Gabbay added that now that the leadership race has ended, both he and Labor "will learn our lessons in order to prepare ourselves for the next battle and next war to wrap up all we have created and bring it to the contest against Likud and Netanyahu.”

Since Gabbay's victory Monday, large numbers of people have asked to join Labor. “The internet site crashed, the telephone switchboard collapsed. People want to join because they understand that this is the way they can strengthen us,” he said.

The party must double its membership and reach 100,000 members. “Every person who joins strengthens us and our hope for change I am calling on the public: You believe in me, come join the Labor Party,” said Gabbay.

Gabbay beat Peretz in the second round of the party leadership primary, garnering 52 percent of the vote to Peretz’s 47 percent; over 30,000, or about 59 percent, of Labor’s 52,000 members turned out. Gabbay received 16,080 votes; Peretz, 14,734.

In his victory speech Monday night, Gabbay said “Tomorrow the election campaign to replace the government in Israel begins.” The new Labor leader, who is not a Knesset member, also reiterated his call to ousted party leader MK Isaac Herzog to continue serving as head of the opposition in the Knesset.

Gabbay also criticized Netanyahu’s government, saying, “the public is sick of its leadership that acts on our behalf, it is sick of those who don’t see us a top priority, and the time has come for leadership that places the individual and the citizen as its main concern.”

Netanyahu and his government are only interested in being re-elected, he added. What is needed is a leadership that unites the nation, one that takes care of “Dimona and not just Amona [an illegal West Bank outpost] An honest leadership for which it is clear that your cousin who conducts the [government] coalition negotiations for you cannot represent a submarine company.”