Labor Party Says Gantz Rejected Their Request to Join His Slate

'That’s no secret. We wanted this alliance. But we can’t force ourselves on a party that doesn’t want us'

Labor Party leader Avi Gabbay with party member and opposition leader Shelly Yacimovich in 2017.
Tomer Appelbaum

The Labor Party reached out to Benny Gantz hoping for an alliance with the former chief of staff’s new party, Hosen L’Yisrael, but he refused. “He wasn’t interested,” Labor’s Shelly Yacimovich told Army Radio on Thursday.

Labor leader Avi Gabbay and Gantz had talked, Yacimovich said, adding, “That’s no secret. We wanted this alliance. But we can’t force ourselves on a party that doesn’t want us.”

Labor Party has hit an all-time low of six to eight Knesset seats, according to public opinion surveys held after Gantz’s opening campaign speech. The party has never received less than 13 Knesset seats in elections.

>> Analysis: Gantz owes his sudden ascent to 20th-century cult of generals and 21st-century 'reality-politik'

Gantz, considered Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s main rival in the April 9 election, made his first speech as an aspiring politician on Tuesday. His address effectively redrew the political map, according to polls that showed Labor getting only six to eight seats in the 120-person Knesset.

Despite the growing criticism behind the scenes, party chairman Gabbay is supported in Labor’s ranks. Party members hope Labor will gain two more Knesset seats in the polls and stabilize there after its primary, due in two weeks.

“It was clear that Gantz’s entering the campaign would harm us as well,” a Labor source said. “He gets his votes mainly from the left, and almost none from the right. It’s a pendulum swing. These are the first days of public enthusiasm over Gantz, which could weaken with time.”

Labor is planning a campaign to rehabilitate its public image and status. One of the main issues is Gantz’s willingness in principle to serve in a government led by Benjamin Netanyahu as long as no indictment is filed against him, or in one led by some other rightist leader. Surveys conducted by Labor showed that most of Gantz’s voters object to Netanyahu and don’t want him as prime minister.

Consequently the Labor campaign will call on the former chief of staff and other center-left party leaders to make a public commitment not to join Netanyahu.

“It’s hard to deal with someone who doesn’t make an ideological commitment and says things that both sides like to hear,” Yacimovich said in the interview.

“Gantz is taking votes from the left to a right-wing government,” a Labor source said. With this slogan Labor will try to persuade Gantz and Yesh Atid voters to join Labor, he said.

“At this stage Gantz is speaking in slogans and hasn’t presented a single plan,” he said. “So when it comes to matters in which we have similar messages, we’ll have clear plans regarding security and socioeconomic issues.”

Meanwhile Gabbay is continuing his attempts to join parties in the center-left bloc until the slates close on February 21.

Yacimovich expressed her support for the embattled Labor chairman, saying that Gabbay is still the best candidate and that he isn’t the problem. “He is a real person and I don’t see anyone else, myself included, who could do better than him in the current situation,” she said. 

Labor’s goal, she said, is to convince people that a vote for them is a vote for something “with content.”