With Popularity Surging, Former Netanyahu Minister Avi Gabbay Hopes to Lead Opposition

Gabbay eyes Labor leadership, slams government coalition for silence in face of investigations of Netanyahu.

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Avi Gabbay in 2105
Avi Gabbay in 2105Credit: Tomer Appelbaum
Yossi Verter
Yossi Verter

Former Environmental Protection Minister Avi Gabbay, who recently quit Kulanu to join the Labor Party, said it is highly likely he will run for the leadership of Labor this summer. Gabbay said he will make the final decision only in another month or a month and a half.

To date he has recruited some 3,000 new members into the party, 90 percent of whom have signed up over the internet. He says these numbers have encouraged him to join the race for Labor chairman and test his strength within the party.

Gabbay, who left the Netanyahu government in May in protest over the firing of defense minister Moshe Ya’alon, was one of the founders of Kulanu. Party leader and Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon appointed Gabbay to the cabinet, even though he wasn’t a Knesset member.

On Tuesday, Gabbay criticized the heads of the parties in the government coalition, in particular Kahlon and Shas leader, Interior Minister Arye Dery, who have remained silent in the face of the police investigations against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Gabbay said they must demand Netanyahu's immediate resignation or leave the coalition to bring about new elections.

The Labor leadership primary is supposed to be held in another six months, in July. So far only MK Amir Peretz has announced he is running, and has already begun an active campaign all around the country. Peretz, a former Labor Party leader, has the support of MK Itzik Shmuli.

The present party chairman, MK and opposition leader Isaac Herzog, is expected to ask for a renewed vote of support from his party. MK Erel Margalit is also running, though he has yet to announce his candidacy formally. MK Omer Bar-Lev may run as well.

Party members are waiting for the decision of MK Shelly Yacimovich, a former chairwoman of Labor; as well as that of MK Eitan Cabel, the party’s former secretary general and chairman of the Knesset Economic Affairs Committee. Yacimovich is also considering running for the leadership of the Histadrut labor federation.

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