Labor Party Members Move to Unseat Leader Gabbay After Livni's Ouster

Hundreds of members leave party in light of chairman's conduct in breaking up Zionist Union alliance ■ Polls predict a steep decline in seats ahead of April 9 election

Avi Gabbay, January 2018
Olivier Fitoussi

Hundreds of Labor Party members have quit the party to protest chairman Avi Gabbay’s decision to dismantle the partnership with Tzipi Livni and Hatnua party, known as the Zionist Union.

Other Labor activists demanded Gabbay’s dismissal, and have begun collecting committee members’ signatures in a bid to oust the chairman. 

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Many of those writing in to resign from the party have blasted Gabbay’s aggressive treatment of Livni, who was publicly booted from the partnership without prior notice on live television earlier this week.

Labor sources said the party had received 200 member resignations so far, and that requests were still coming in.

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Many other members sent the party angry comments over Gabbay’s conduct. A Labor source said that although the party had anticipated an even larger number of members leaving, there is fear of a rupture with its loyal supporter base.

One party member asked to remove his name from the list due to “the party chairman’s disgraceful act.” Another protested “Gabbay’s humiliating, degrading behavior” and asked to stop deducting her membership fees.

Labor has some 60,000 registered members, more than 4,000 of whom joined in the past month following the early election announcement.

According to polls published on Thursday on the Israel Television News Company and Kan News, if elections were held today Labor would get seven to eight Knesset seats.

A senior Labor member told Haaretz that Livni’s people are behind the move to dismiss Gabbay. Another party figure said that although he believed it was legally possible to dismiss Gabbay, those demanding it don't have the numbers to pull it off.

Gabbay himself is expected to announce next week the number of slots he wants to reserve on the party’s ticket for his people, ahead of submitting it to the Labor’s committee next Thursday.

The reserved slots are one of the reasons for the tension among Labor’s MKs, who feel their chances of being placed high enough to ensure getting into the Knesset are slipping away.

However, after Livni’s departure there’s an additional place in the top ten on the slate and another slot, the 12th, which had been reserved for Hatnuah's Yoel Hasson.

Earlier on Thursday, MK Eitan Cabel (Labor) called on Gabbay to resign, saying that "in the business world he would have already handed over the keys."

Cabel further warned that a "glorious movement" is in danger of vanishing. The Labor Party responded by saying that his "subversion is nothing new."

Ayelet Nahmias-Verbin (Labor) backed Cabel, saying she too would like to see him replaced, although she'd prefer "to do it with him, not against him." 

MK Merav Michaeli, in contrast, said she totally supported “Gabbay’s choice to break up the Zionist Union.” She said she “would have done it differently,” but made it clear it was Gabbay’s right to make his own decisions.

She expressed hope that now “Labor will go in full force to this election. Gabby has the authority to generate the best constellation that will enable us to replace this government.”

Also on Thursday, Gabbay said in an interview that Livni refused to rule out joining a future coalition headed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

"I won't enter a government headed by Netanyahu because he doesn't want to make a change. And Tzipi isn't there. She wouldn't say those things. It's a big gap," Gabbay, who spoke with Israeli daily Yedioth Ahronoth, said in the first public remarks following the break up.