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)
Zionist Union leader Avi Gabbay continued his trend of making controversial statements Monday, when he told party activists at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in Beersheba that "the Left forgot what it means to be Jewish."
Gabbay recalled that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu whispered that statement in the ear of the late Sephardi kabbalist Rabbi Yitzhak Kadourie and was caught on camera. That October 1997 incident caused a major political uproar.
"Do you know what the Left did in response to [what Netanyahu said]?,'' Gabbay asked a questioner at the event. "It forgot what it means to be Jewish. They said 'they say it about us but now we are just liberals' but it is not true. We are Jews, and we must speak about our Jewish values."
Meretz leader Zehava Gal-On said in response that it is only Gabbay and not the Left that forgot what it means to be Jewish.
"There is no contradiction between Judaism and liberal values, and not every Jew is willing to bow to the haredi (ultra-Orthodox) or religious Zionist versions of Judaism," Gal-On wrote on Twitter. "The Left that founded [Gabbay's] party once knew that."
Gabbay wins Israeli Labour Party leadership (credit: REUTERS)
Meretz MK Michal Rozin said the Left knew better than Orthodox Jews what it means to be Jewish because "the Left is inclusive of all religious streams and anyone who chooses to be a part of the Jewish community according to their path and beliefs."
Gabbay also surprised people at the event when he revealed that he was willing to serve under Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid if Lapid's party received more mandates than the Zionist Union, in order to ensure that a coalition could be formed that is not led by Likud.
"I will do all I can to be number one, but if I am not chosen, I am willing to be number two to bring about change," he said.
On October 16, Gabbay caused a political storm when he told Channel 2 in an interview that there was no need to evacuate settlements that are not considered part of settlement blocs, including Eli and Ofra.
“Why do you need to evacuate if you make peace?” he asked. “If you make peace, solutions can be found that do not require evacuation.”
Gabbay also said recently that he would not sit in a coalition with the Joint (Arab) list, that he was not sure if there was a partner on the Palestinian side, and that “the whole Land of Israel is ours,” because it was promised to Abraham by God.”