Zionist Camp Grumbling Over New Leader

Labor MK Hilik Bar. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

The chronic infighting which has for years dogged the Labor Party now threatens to undermine its recently-installed chairman, Avi Gabbay, The Jerusalem Post reported on Thursday.

Four months into Avi Gabbay’s term, the grumbling has started. Members of Labor, the main faction in the Zionist Camp coalition, have reacted negatively to his statements about not evacuating Jews from Yehudah and Shomron, and his decision to skip over veteran party leaders in Knesset appointments.

The peace camp got a jolt when Gabbay said publicly last week that a peace agreement with the Palestinians would not necessitate evacuations, even from outside the Jewish bloc in Yehudah and Shomron.

Prominent Zionist Camp MK’s like Tzipi Livni, Nachman Shai, Itzik Shmuly and Ksenia Svetlova criticized him for deviating from party policy, and forced him to clarify that he’s still really for the two-state solution.

“Gabbay can branch out to other people, but he has to keep one foot in Labor, or he’ll lose the usual voters,” one MK remarked, apparently interpreting Gabbay’s comments as a move to attract disaffected Likud voters that could backfire.

The other issue, which has a more personal edge, is that of political appointments.

“Look at the three people leading the faction meetings — none of them are really from Labor,” he said. The reference was to Tzipi Livni, head of the Hatnua party which merged with Labor, Yoel Hasson (Hatnua), and Gabbay himself, who soared to leadership after less than a year as Labor party member.

In addition, he has favored his own personal supporters, such as MK Shelly Yacimovich, who’s now chairwoman of the State Control Committee.

“Gabbay needs to show that he’s the leader of everyone in Labor, not just his people,” one said.

For the time being, most of the grumbling has been muffled. Hilik Bar, a senior Labor MK who has been somewhat downsized since Gabbay took over, counsels restraint.

“Even if I’m not happy with everything, I think we need to work with the new leader. Shooting him in the foot is shooting the whole party,” Bar said. “Even if I didn’t support Gabbay [in the primary], I choose, at this point, to back him, and time will tell,” Bar added.

Gabbay’s office had no comment.

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