Israel's New Labor Party Leader Says the Left Forgot How to Be Jews

'It all starts in Torah,' Avi Gabbay says, in what appears to be the latest of his comments that appeal to the right

Avi Gabbay at Ben-Gurion University, November 13, 2017.
Labor Party chief Avi Gabbay at Ben-Gurion University, November 13, 2017. Ilan Assayag

Labor Party Leader Avi Gabbay criticized the Israeli left on Monday, saying that they have forgotten their Jewish values.

"In 1997, Bibi [Benjamin Netanyahu] said that 'the left has forgotten what it means to be Jewish.' Do you know what the left did in response? Forgot [how] to be Jews," Avi Gabbay said during a conference at Ben-Gurion University in Be'er Sheva.

"People feel that I am closer to Jewish values. We are Jews. We live in a Jewish state. I also think that one of the problems of Labor Party members is that [they] distanced themselves from it," Gabbay said.

Some, Gabbay said, say that the Israeli left if "only liberal," saying that this view is wrong. "We are Jews and we need to speak about our Jewish values. It all began with our Torah, our halakha [Jewish religious laws], and our shared heritage. It all begins there," he said.

This is not the first time that Gabbay spoke in a way that appealed to the Israeli right.

About a month ago, Gabbay said he will not sit with Arab-majority Joint List in Knesset, even in order to form a coalition. "I won't sit with the Joint Arab list in the same government. Period. Just so it's clear." He continued, "you see their behavior. I don't see a single thing that brings us together or connects us or that would allow us to sit together in the same government." 

A few days after these comments, Gabbay was asked in an interview on Channel 2 whether the settlements of Ofra and Eli will be evacuated. Gabbay said, "If we reach a peace agreement, it's possible to find solutions that don't require evacuation."