Israel’s Labor Party: A New Start?

One day the Israeli Labor Party felt that it needed a new leader.

That happens to this party every couple of years. The party is in bad shape. It looks more like a political corpse than a living organism. Wanted: a new leader, charismatic, energetic, enthusiastic.

So they found Avi Gabbay.

Why him? Nobody is really sure.

Avi Gabbay has no visible qualities of political leadership. No charisma at all. No special energy. No enthusiasm himself and no ability to inspire enthusiasm in others.

After serving as a government employee dealing with the mobile phone industry, he himself became the successful director of the largest mobile phone concern. Then he went into politics and joined a moderate right-wing party, and was appointed Minister for the Protection of the Environment. When the extreme right-winger Avigdor Lieberman was appointed Minister of Defense, Gabbay resigned from the government and his party and joined Labor. That was only a year ago.

He has one significant asset: he is a Mizrahi, an oriental Jew. His parents are immigrants from Morocco, he is the seventh of eight children. Since the Labor Party is considered a Western, Ashkenazi, elitist grouping, these passive attributes are important. Up to a point.

Gabbay did not waste time in presenting his political identity card.

First he made a speech asserting that he will not sit in the same government with the "Joint List".

The Joint List is the united (or disunited) list of the Arab community in Israel. It joins together the three very different “Arab” parties: the Communist party, which is overwhelmingly Arab, but includes some Jews (including a Jewish member of parliament), the Balad party, which is secular and nationalist, and a religious Islamic party.

How come these diverse parties created a joint list? They owe this achievement to the genius of the great Arab-hater, Avigdor Lieberman (see above), who saw that all three parties were small and decided to eliminate them by raising the electoral threshold. But rather than perish separately they decided to survive together. There is no doubt that their list represents the vast majority of Israel’s Palestinian citizens, who constitute more than 20% of the population. Strange as this may sound, every fifth Israeli is an Arab.

The simple numerical fact is that without the support of the Arab members in the Knesset, no left-wing government can exist. Yitzhak Rabin would not have become prime minister, and the Oslo agreement would not have come into being, without the support "from the outside" of the Arab bloc.

Then why did they not join Rabin’s government? Both sides were afraid of losing votes. Many Jews cannot envision a government including Arabs, and many Arabs cannot envision their representatives sharing "collective responsibility" in a government mainly occupied with fighting Arabs.

This has not changed. It is highly unlikely that the Arabs would join a Gabbay government if invited, and even more unlikely that they would receive…

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