Labor's Gabbay 'Won't Say' He Wouldn't Join a Netanyahu Government After Israel's Election

'You never know which circumstances you'll find yourself in,' party leader tells Channel 12, arguing he hadn't lied to his voters in holding coalition talks with the premier

File photo: Avi Gabbay speaks at the Knesset, Jerusalem, Israel, May 29, 2019.
Olivier Fitoussi

Labor Party chairman Avi Gabbay said Thursday he can't vow not to join a governing coalition headed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu after Israel's September 17 snap election, arguing "you never know which circumstances you'll find yourself in."

In an interview with Channel 12 News, Gabbay said he hadn't lied to his voters in considering Netanyahu's proposal to join his government, after promising voters never to do so. "I know one thing today," he added, "I won't say such thing again."

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Netanyahu's offer to Gabbay was one of several attempts to form a governing coalition, as negotiations with Yisrael Beiteinu's Avigdor Lieberman had been at a dead end. After coalition talks had failed and Netanyahu's Wednesday midnight deadline passed, the Knesset voted Wednesday overnight to dissolve itself.

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Earlier on Thursday, Haaretz's Yossi Verter reported in Hebrew that on Tuesday overnight at around 2 A.M. Gabbay arrived at a meeting in Netanyahu's official residence in Jerusalem, which lasted four and a half hours. During that meeting, Netanyahu, in Gabbay's presence and to show him his sincerity, called leaders of three right-wing parties who had agreed to join his government to get their agreement in principle to shelve a proposed bill to override Israel's Supreme Court, one of the key issues in the recent coalition talks.

However, the negotiations were leaked before any agreement was reached, effectively putting an end to them.

Gabbay told Channel 12 he was offered a veto power over all legislation concerning judicial matters, and that is why, according to him, he agreed to hear Netanyahu's proposal. "We sat down and listened and got an offer," he said. "I consulted with our Knesset members. Some were for it, more or less. We discussed various positions and eventually gave a negative response."

"If for a single moment I'd felt he [Netanyahu] was using us, I wouldn't have walked into that room," Gabbay said.

Concerning his future in the Labor Party, Gabbay, who has been rumored to be considering leaving politics, said: "The Labor Party is a democratic party. In a month we'll hold primary election for the party's leadership and then I will make a decision."