Labor head Avi Gabbay traveled to UAE, other Arab countries

Knesset members from the now-defunct Zionist Union faction upset that Gabbay lied to them about his travels, told them he was sick

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January 8, 2019 15:30
2 minute read.
Labor leader Avi Gabbay and Labor Knesset candidate Henrique Cymerman meet with Pope Francis

Labor leader Avi Gabbay and Labor Knesset candidate Henrique Cymerman meet with Pope Francis at the Vatican in July. (photo credit: YAEL KEHAT)

 
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Labor Party leader Avi Gabbay traveled to multiple Arab countries in the 18 months he has occupied his post, Labor Knesset candidate and veteran journalist Henrique Cymerman, who organized the visits, told The Jerusalem Post on Tuesday.

Cymerman accompanied Gabbay to meet Jordanian King Abdullah in October and Pope Francis in July. Channel 10 reported that he also went with Gabbay to Abu Dhabi last month for meetings with ministers in the government of the United Arab Emirates.

The report said Gabbay and Cymernan traveled via Amman to Abu Dhabi from December 2 to 4 for meetings organized by Morrocan mediators, who helped him get meetings with senior officials in the Arab world that have not yet been revealed. It also noted that Gabbay updated Mossad head Yossi Cohen upon his return to Israel.

Neither Gabbay, nor Cymerman would confirm the report, with Gabbay’s spokeswoman saying only that “Gabbay deals with the diplomatic issue a lot, and he has a detailed plan for restoring negotiations based on confidence building measures with the Palestinians and Arab countries.”

The report angered Knesset members in Gabbay’s faction, since on the day he was reportedly in Abu Dhabi, he told them he would miss the faction’s Hanukkah party, because he was not feeling well. He did not even inform his then-partner in the Zionist Union, former foreign minister Tzipi Livni.

“He lied to us, and it was no surprise,” said MK Yoel Hasson of Livni’s Hatnua Party.

Cymerman said Abdullah and other Arab leaders have met with Gabbay, despite his poor showing in the polls, “because they think Gabbay is relevant and the polls are irrelevant, and they are investing in him because of his potential.” He said they also respect the Labor Party that founded the state.

“We received an impression that there is much to be done by reaching out to countries who are interested not just in the Israeli government but also in the opposition,” Cymerman said. “They want relations not just with the government but also with the Israeli people.”

For instance, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi sent a message to the Israeli people via Pope Francis – when Gabbay and Cymerman met him – that there is a huge opportunity to advance a regional diplomatic process, and Israel should take advantage of it while it is still open.

To that end, Gabbay is expected to reveal his regional diplomatic plan together with Cymerman on January 15 at an event at the Eretz Israel Museum in Tel Aviv.

Cymerman, 59, has not been guaranteed a reserved slot on the crowded Labor list. But Gabbay is expected to recommend him to Labor Party members ahead of the February 11 party primary.

A native of Portugal who moved to Israel at age 16, Cymerman speaks five languages and has met regularly with Arab leaders for several years. He teaches government and diplomacy at the Herzliya Interdisciplinary Center and has won 22 awards in journalism from four countries.

After he organized a 2014 prayer meeting between Palestinian Authority chairman Mahmoud Abbas and then-president Shimon Peres at the Vatican, Cymerman was nominated for the Nobel peace prize.

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