The shock “divorce” between Avi Gabay and Tzipi Livni Tuesday has turned out to be anything but amicable, as the two continued to trade barbs Wednesday – while reports said that many Labor MKs were furious at the way Gabay took the decision. In a radio interview Wednesday, Gabay said that his decision to jettison Livni and her Hatenua party – which had joined with Labor in 2015 to form Zionist Camp – was politics as usual. “Tzipi is very strong, I have never seen her as a ‘weak woman,’ but as a colleague. I wish her all the luck in the elections. There is no need to feel sorry for her.”
Livni, speaking in an interview herself, said that the fact that she was a woman clearly factored into Gabay’s decision. “A man who does something like this – sneaking in a surprise announcement without consulting with me or anyone – is clearly weak. After the announcement, I received a lot of phone calls and messages from women, and I came to understand even more something I first realized in 2009,” when she joined with Ehud Olmert, then head of Kadima – “that I represent something greater than myself.”
A report in Yisrael Hayom said that many in Labor were upset with Gabay – to the extent that a movement to remove him as head of the party is brewing. MKs are dissatisfied with the way the breakup was executed – in public, and in front of Livni, who heard about the decision as Gabay announced it – as well as the breakup itself, which, a senior Labor Mk told the paper, many saw as a “mistake. I have no doubt that there are legal ways to remove Gabay and give someone more worthy the opportunity to run the party. Many members are opposed to what he did and the way he did it, but they are afraid to say anything because it might harm the party. Also, they are afraid Gabay will get back at them.”
Tomer Pines, chairperson of Labor’s youth wing, said that “Avi Gabay made two mistakes – breaking up with Hatenua, and doing it in a violent manner. This is not what the public is looking for in a party that is supposed to lead the democratic camp, and the country.”
Gabay focused the blame for the breakup of the party on Livni. Speaking at a meeting of MKs earlier Tuesday, Gabay attributed his decision to divorce his Labor party from Livni’s Hatenua movement to “tension” between Livni and the rest of the party. “When former Labor chairperson Yitzchak Herzog resigned, Tzipi made it a condition of her continuing the partnership that she be named head of the opposition. This generated much tension in the party, and even more,” as Labor MKs felt slighted that they were passed over for the top spot in the party in deference to Livni. The Hatenua head said in response that the blame lay with Gabay. “I established Zionist Camp with Yitzchak Herzog,” the former head of Labor, she said. “I thought that this partnership would lead to unity, but all I hear from Gabay is ‘me, me, me.’ Despite that, I agreed to partner with Zionist Camp.”
Internal polls taken Tuesday afternoon, after Gabay’s move, indicate that the absence of Livni has not done much for the fortunes of Labor, at least so far. The party has been polling poorly in recent months, and the entry into the elections race of parties headed by Benny Gantz, as well as the newly formed New Right party, have hurt the party even more. Polls taken since the announcement on Motzoei Shabbos by Naftali Bennett and Ayelet Shaked that they were breaking up with Jewish Home – along with the official entry of Gantz’s Resilience Party into the fray last week – show Zionist Camp polling as low as seven seats if elections were held now.