(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Israel will have a government where key ministries are controlled by professionals if former environmental protection minister Avi Gabbay wins the July 4 Labor race and the next general election, he told The Jerusalem Post in an interview on Thursday.
Gabbay said he wants a government that is as technocratic as possible, with at least the Defense, Finance, Housing, Health and Education portfolios held by professionals in those fields. For instance, he would want a former IDF chief of staff as defense minister.
According to the plan, other ministers would be politicians, but they would be forbidden from making political appointments.
“The obligation of the politicians must be to the public, not their milieu,” he said.
Gabbay has been campaigning in an effort to meet as many of Labor’s 52,000 members as possible. He tells them that he can win the party the most votes and give Labor the best chance to win the next election.
“Labor needs a chairman who is a new face,” he said.
“That’s what the public wants. Labor is not at its best now, and only a new face can enable it to renew itself.”
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If he wins the Labor leadership, Gabbay believes he can win back the seats the party has lost to Yesh Atid in the polls and then draft six seats away from the Likud and Kulanu, the party he left when he quit Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government a year ago to protest the firing of defense minister Moshe Ya’alon.
“[Yesh Atid chairman Yair] Lapid takes no mandates from the Likud in the polls, only from us,” he said. “To win the election, Labor needs to work to win 30 mandates and bring Lapid back to 11. The point is to win six seats without losing any. Lapid’s voters are double- parked there, waiting to see what happens with us.”
On diplomatic issues, Gabbay believes Israel must initiate negotiations with the Palestinians, not wait for the US or the rest of the international community. He said Labor should say clearly that it supports two states for two peoples, even though he said he does not know if peace can be reached with Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas.
“We don’t decide their leader, but I don’t want the world to see us as the side that is refusing to reach an agreement,” he said.
Gabbay was a successful businessman before entering politics. When he quit the cabinet, he decided to stay in politics rather than go back to business. He said he was not concerned his wealth would turn away voters in a social-democratic party.
“I am not embarrassed I succeeded in life,” he said.
“I started way below the line and I am now way above it. I could have continued making money but I decided to serve the public, because that is Zionism in the 21st century.”
Gabbay said he registered 4,000 people to the party. In an Army Radio interview on Thursday, MK Erel Margalit, one of the eight candidates running against him, claimed he signed up 11,000 of the 52,000 members.
Incumbent Labor leader Isaac Herzog lashed out at Margalit for his slogan, in which he boasts of being a proud leftist.
“We don’t need to die bragging about how correct we are and end up like Meretz,” he told Israel Radio. “If people don’t like that, they shouldn’t vote for me.”
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