Gabbay: Religious Zionists Have Become ‘Religious Fanatics’

Avi Gabbay. (Marc Israel Sellem/POOL)

Fresh from his success in the Labor primary – in which the MKs he promoted rose to the top of the list, and those opposed to his leadership, notably Eitan Cabel, were voted down by party members – Labor party head Avi Gabbay told a largely religious Zionist audience that their values were misplaced.

“I believe the religious public is suffering from a case of fanaticism,” he said. “I hear this from many right-wing voters who consider themselves religious Zionists. We in Labor have a wide view of the world,” not limited to “Land of Israel” issues, he said.

Gabbay was speaking at the Yerushalayim Conference, sponsored by the Besheva newspaper, the print outlet of Arutz Sheva, which is geared to the right-wing and religious public. Gabbay took the opportunity to criticize the religious Zionist parties, notably Jewish Home and National Union. “They are interested in the mitzvos that characterize the Land of Israel, but there are many other mitzvos that need to be dealt with. What about unsafe conditions at construction sites where many accidents happen? There is a mitzvah to build a fence (maakah) on the roof of a building. Where are the religious parties on this issue?”

One mitzvah that apparently does not concern Gabbay too much is Shabbos; Labor is firmly in favor of public transportation on the holy day. “We believe in public transportation on Shabbos so that people can travel and visit their grandmothers on Shabbos,” he said. “Do not be mistaken, however, we do not favor full public transportation on Shabbos.”

Gabbay also praised the 2005 disengagement. “We say that we need to part from the Palestinians. The disengagement was a positive process that helped this happen to some extent. I know that the crowd I am speaking to does not agree with me, but you need to be aware that there are other points of view out there.”

In that, Gabbay echoed Resilience Party head Benny Gantz, who said in an interview last weekend that Israel needed to figure out ways “where we are not ruling over other people.” The disengagement, which saw some 10,000 Jews thrown out of their homes in Gush Katif and northern Shomron, could be a model for Yehudah and Shomron, he said. The disengagement “was perfectly legal and adopted by the government, and carried out by the IDF. For the residents of the affected areas it was painful, but it turned out for the good. We must learn the lessons and actualize them elsewhere.”