Labor Party leader Avi Gabbay shocked the MKs of the Zionist Union faction on Tuesday when he announced he was breaking up the partnership with the Hatnua Party of Tzipi Livni.
Gabbay spoke with Livni who was sitting next to him showing a stern face. It was clear that neither she nor any of the MKs were told of the decision in advance. Gabbay said he accepted the request of former Labor leader Isaac Herzog in July to keep the partnership going and faced massive criticism inside Labor when accepted Livni's demand to be opposition leader
, but now decided to go in a different direction.
“I hoped and believed this partnership would bring about our blossoming, a real connection, and we would complement each other. But the public is smart, saw this is the situation and distanced itself from us,” Gabbay said. “I still believe in partnering and connecting into one big camp to bring about change, but successful partnerships require friendship, keeping agreements and loyalty to our path. This is not happening in this partnership.”
Gabbay then wished Livni well, as the MKs in the faction let out calls of “Whoa.”
After the media left, Gabbay said to Labor MKs, “I was constantly eating s*** because of Livni. She didn’t have a good word to say about me. She made an ultimatum here in front of the cameras that she’d quit if she’s not made opposition leader, so don’t talk to me about manners.”
After the meeting, Livni wrote on Twitter, “It is good that the doubts have been dispelled and one can focus on the important national challenge that we are facing, all those who truly believe in the way – a revolution in the coming elections.”
Livni called a press conference after Gabbay’s announcement at which she accused him of chauvinism and said she had received countless calls and texts from women who were offended by the way Gabbay had treated her.
“Time is up,” Livni told Channel 2 News in English. “The time that you prove you’re a man by humiliating a woman is over.”
Livni revealed at the press conference that she had prevented a split in Labor before Sunday’s deadline.
“Gabbay never wanted a partnership, and the way he killed it today proved it,” Livni complained. “After I said we should put the state first, the party second and ourselves last, I heard him speak today and all he said was ‘me, me, me.’”
Asked about Gabbay’s complaints that she had made him “eat s***,” she said, “I didn’t look at his plate and I don’t know what he ate.”
A source close to Livni said Gabbay’s press conference preempted what would have been a fight about the Zionist Union’s campaign strategy. The source said Gabbay demanded that the campaign be all about praising him and not at all about separating from the Palestinians.
The source said without Labor it would now be easier to bring about a bloc led by former IDF chief of staff Benny Gantz. Livni vowed to bring about a bloc that could defeat Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
“This is the time to look forward and bring about the political upheaval we need in order to separate from the Palestinians and keep Israel Jewish and democratic,” she said.
Netanyahu responded that he “would not intervene in how the Left divides up its mandates” and “what matters is that the Right will form the next government and continue leading the country.”
In the Labor Party meeting after the announcement, MK Eitan Cabel complained about Gabbay’s behavior and said he should have consulted with Labor MKs before making a decision that could harm their political future.
But Labor MK Shelly Yacimovich endorsed Gabbay’s decision, saying the partnership did not work and that it was clear Livni had never accepted his leadership.
Her Labor colleague, MK Leah Fadida, said the partnership was causing electoral damage. She said ending the partnership would help Labor return to its values and ideology.
Livni’s ally in Hatnua, MK Yoel Hasson, slammed Gabbay, saying he never accepted the partnership that led to 24 mandates, and polls that now say the party will win only eight or nine seats were “the direct result of his failed, unilateral leadership.”
“Running a country is serious business that must be limited to statesmen,” Hasson said.
Meretz leader Tamar Zandberg attacked Gabbay, saying the way he treated Livni proved he cannot lead the center-left camp.
“Apparently, even Livni is too left-wing for Gabbay,” said Zandberg, who called on the Left to join Meretz.
Science and Technology Minister Ofir Akunis (Likud) said Gabbay’s decision proved that “every dirty, opportunistic political deal is doomed to last only one term.” He said he cannot wait to see which party Livni will join next, breaking a record for shifting among five parties in 10 years.
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