Labor leader Avi Gabbay speaks at a faction meeting.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Labor Party leader Avi Gabbay said he intends to solve what he termed a “harsh crisis” between Israel and US Jews if he is elected prime minister.
“My message will be that we will return to power and fix what this government did to harm the critical bond with American Jewry,” Gabbay said in an interview with The Jerusalem Post ahead of the newspaper’s December 6 Diplomatic Conference at the capital’s Waldorf Astoria Hotel.
Gabbay said Israel cannot afford to disconnect from the American Jewish community, a comment he made before Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely made her disparaging comments
about US Jews.
“I respect all streams, and they are all Jews in my eyes,” Gabbay said. “They are a tremendous asset for Israel and we can’t forget it.”
Gabbay on Thursday blamed Netanyahu for Hotovely’s comments, saying they were made because “his government decided to sacrifice its relations with US Jews for narrow politics.”
Since winning the July 4 Labor leadership race, Gabbay has gone through a crash course on US Jewry, meeting Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations executive vice chairman Malcolm Hoenlein, ADL head Jonathan Greenblatt, and AIPAC leaders Howard Kohr and Lillian Pinkus.
He is scheduled to leave on Monday for a week in New York and Washington, where he will meet with American Jewish leaders and address at the Saban Forum in the US capital.
Gabbay has also met with Union for Reform Judaism president Rabbi Rick Jacobs and with United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism CEO Rabbi Steven Wernick. Gabbay expressed respect for the religious streams, despite his never having prayed in a synagogue where men and women sit together.
“We’re in the midst of a massive, deep rift with US Jewry that was caused by the lack of leadership of Netanyahu,” Gabbay said. “Breaking the Western Wall deal is proof. A framework worked on for years and passed by the government was thrown away for political reasons alone.
I believe everyone has a right to express his Judaism as he sees fit, whether he is secular, Orthodox, Conservative or Reform.”
Gabbay – who has already been ruled out as a possible prime minister by the heads of Kulanu, Yisrael Beytenu, and Bayit Yehudi – said he would allow Shas and United Torah Judaism to join a government led by him only if they agreed to implementation of the Western Wall agreement.
“The Kotel compromise is correct and we must advance it,” he said. “We cannot let the harsh crisis continue. In coalition-building, there is what you give and do not give. We can insist that they agree to this to join the coalition.”
Gabbay said he would like to be one of those who explains Israel’s position for the international media in times of security crises, and that he was willing to perform that role from the opposition, as Netanyahu did.
“I am Israeli before I am a politician,” he said.
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