Ex-Labor chiefs disagree over Gabbay’s plan

“His proposal goes against the DNA of the party, but Labor must change its DNA to win."

August 21, 2017 21:19
2 minute read.
Avi Gabbay, the leader of Israel's centre-left Labour party, delivers his victory speech after winni

Avi Gabbay, the leader of Israel's centre-left Labour party, delivers his victory speech after winning the Labour party primary runoff, at an event in Tel Aviv, Israel July 10, 2017.. (photo credit: REUTERS)

New Labor Party leader Avi Gabbay’s plan to seek significantly increased power for the party chairmanship received mixed reviews Monday from former holders of the Labor secretary-general post.

Labor’s secretary-general used to be one of the most powerful positions in Israel during the three decades when Labor’s forerunners ran the country. The post was once held by Israel’s first prime minister, David Ben-Gurion.

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Gabbay wants to take away some of the authority currently given to Labor’s secretary- general Eran Hermoni.

Hermoni, who would lose his safe slot on Labor’s Knesset list according to the plan, intends to try to block the moves at the next Labor convention, whose date has not yet been set.

Former Labor secretary-general Ra’anan Cohen said Hermoni was right to criticize the moves.

“It is not right for Avi Gabbay to focus on internal steps instead of targeting our opponents,” Cohen told The Jerusalem Post. “A party chairman just elected must deal with external battles. Internal battles just harm the party.”

Former Labor secretary- general Ophir Paz-Pines said that if he was still an MK he would oppose Gabbay’s plan. But he said that as a current outsider, he understands the need to support what the new Labor leader wants to do.

“Gabbay is still relatively new in Labor and wants to strengthen himself in the party,” Paz-Pines told Israel Radio. “His proposal goes against the DNA of the party, but Labor must change its DNA to win. What the party has been doing hasn’t been working. If this is what Gabbay thinks he needs to do to bring the party back to power, he should be allowed to do it. Going against it now would look suicidal.”

The most controversial change Gabbay intends to request is the right to select four candidates in realistic slots for the next Knesset, two of whom would be placed in the top 10 on the list. Possible candidates for those slots include former prime minister Ehud Barak, former defense minister Moshe Ya’alon, and MK Tzipi Livni, who formed a joint list with Labor – the Zionist Union – ahead of the last election.

The new Labor leader also wants the right to choose Labor’s faction head, Knesset committee chairmen and which MKs will serve on each committee. Because he is not an MK, Gabbay has not had a role in how the faction is run in the parliament. Not one Labor MK chose to challenge the new party chairman immediately, though privately some said he would have a difficult time passing the moves in party institutions.

But MK Hilik Bar, who was Labor’s secretary-general until recently, wrote a long message on Facebook criticizing both Gabbay and Hermoni.

He pleaded with them to reach an agreement ahead of the party convention, as he always made a point of doing during his six and a half years as secretary-general, when he worked with four different Labor chairmen.

“It is in our hands to decide whether the convention will be a show of unity or a horror film,” Bar wrote. “This is not a convention about dividing Jerusalem or the Iranian nuclear program but merely on proposals to change the party constitution. The time has come to compromise.”

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