Labor Party Leader Gabbay, Former Israeli Defense Minister Agree to Work Together

Recent polls do not show Moshe Ya'alon, a former senior figure in Likud, attracting enough support for a party of his own to secure Knesset representation

Chaim Levinson
Chaim Levinson
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Former Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon
Former Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon speaking at a Haaretz policy conference in Tel Aviv, June 12, 2017.Credit: Tomer Appelbaum
Chaim Levinson
Chaim Levinson

Labor Party leader Avi Gabbay and Likud Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon have decided to work together after meeting recently. Ya’alon quit the Likud party last year when Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu removed him as defense minister. The prime minister gave the job instead to the leader of the Yisrael Beiteinu, Avigdor Lieberman, as part of the agreement that paved the way for Lieberman’s party to join the coalition government.

While the Ya’alon and Gabbay have agreed to work together in some capacity, the Labor Party leader has not guaranteed Ya’alon a slot on the party’s Knesset slate whenever elections are next held. Since Gabbay’s election as head of the Labor Party in July, he has also met with Yesh Atid party leader Yair Lapid and Ehud Barak, the former prime minister and former Labor Party leader.

For his part, Ya’alon is understood to be seeking to make connections that will pave his way for a bid to become prime minister. The former defense minister has not ruled out possible cooperation with Kulanu party leader Moshe Kahlon or with Orli Levi-Abekasis, the independent, former Yisrael Beiteinu legislator. In the past, Ya’alon rejected overtures from Lapid.

Negotiations are expected to become more serious closer to the date of a Knesset election, which is not scheduled until 2019, unless it is moved up.

In March, Ya’alon announced that he intended to form a new party. According to polls however, such a party is not currently expected to exceed the minimum electoral threshold necessary to be represented in the Knesset.

Gabbay is preoccupied at the moment with internal Labor Party issues. He recently proposed changes to the party constitution, one of which would allow him to appoint two candidates in each set of ten candidates on the party’s next Knesset slate.

At a conference in Ashdod on Tuesday, Gabbay said he would only be willing to appoint candidates with “added value,” who would be able to attract two to three additional Knesset seats for the party. He has not elaborated on other changes he intends to try to make. Commenting on the pending criminal investigations of Prime Minister Netanyahu, the Labor Party leader said: “Anyone who says that even if Bibi is corrupt he will remain [in power] must have been brainwashed.”

In the internal Labor Party election earlier this year, former Prime Minister Barak threw his support behind Gabbay, saying that he was more suited to serve as prime minister than Yesh Atid leader Lapid. In a video that he posted, Barak said: “Avi Gabbay has brought about a revolution in the Labor Party and could bring about a revolution in the country. It’s true that Gabbay needs more experience if he is to persuade concerned Israelis that he can lead them, but that will happen.”

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