Israel's Labor Leader Says Arab Parties Wouldn't Be Part of His Government

Avi Gabbay nevertheless asserts that he wants Labor to 'be a home to all Israelis'

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Labor leader Avi Gabbay speaks at a political forum in Be'er Sheba, October 14, 2017.
Labor leader Avi Gabbay speaks at a political forum in Be'er Sheba, October 14, 2017.Credit: Courtesy of the Be'er Sheva Municipality

Israel's Labor leader Avi Gabbay said on Saturday that he would not be part of a governing coalition alongside the mainly Arab Joint List. 

"We will not share a government with the Joint List, period," Gabbay said at a political forum in Be'er Sheva. "Let that be clear."

"You see their behavior," he continued. "I don't see any [connection] between us that would allow us to be part of a government with them."

Gabbay said that Labor would need to get 27 Knesset seats in the next election in order to be in a position to put together a coalition alongside Yair Lapid's Yesh Atid party, which would need 11 seats. He noted that Knesset Member Tzipi Livni is expected to be on Labor's ticket, as well as an as yet unnamed "defense figure." Gabbay expressed hope that former Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon would return to Labor.

Gabbay didn't reject the possibility of being part of a governing coalition alongside Kulanu, Yisrael Beiteinu and the ultra-Orthodox parties. 

"My worldview says that the Labor Party should be a home to all Israelis," he said. 

Responding to the remarks, Joint Arab List leader Ayman Odeh accused Gabbay of failing to present an alternative to the right-wing. 

"Someone who doesn’t view Arab citizens and their elected representatives as a legitimate group, doesn't present a real alternative to the right," he said. "Since the days of Ehud Barak, the Labor Party has strived to be a pale replica of the right – and the citizens always choose the original. To be drawn into the delegitimization campaign led by the prime minister against Arab citizens is a huge gift to the far-right coalition headed by Netanyahu and the settlers."

Prior to the Labor primary in July, Gabbay was asked whether he would join forces with the left-wing Meretz party and the Joint Arab List, and said that "the time has come for the Arab public to have real representation in the government. They comprise 20 percent of Israel's residents. 

"However," he continued, "the Joint List includes anti-Zionist figures like [MK Haneen] Zoabi and [MK Jamal] Zahalka, so in its current formulation we won't be able to cooperate with it."

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