A general view shows the plenum during the swearing-in ceremony of the 20th Knesset, the new Israeli parliament, in Jerusalem March 31, 2015..
(photo credit: REUTERS)
One of the byproducts of former environmental protection minister Avi Gabbay capturing the Labor leadership this week is a new turf war in the Center-Left and Center of the Israeli political map.
Until Gabbay’s victory Monday night, the overwhelming majority of those Knesset mandates – along with a few from the soft Right – belonged to Yesh Atid.
Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid sounded overconfident in his faction’s weekly meeting on Monday, hours before polls closed in the Labor race.
“I don’t really care who will win in Labor,” Lapid told reporters. “For two-and-a-half years, the real political rivalry has been me against Netanyahu, Yesh Atid against Likud. The problems of Labor are not our problems.”
Lapid knew in advance he would be asked whether he preferred Gabbay or Peretz. He was surprised by this reporter’s follow-up question: “Who better resembles French president and international centrist icon Emmanuel Macron – Gabbay or himself?” He surprisingly responded by mocking Gabbay for the first time.
“You cannot run in the oldest party in Israel and say you are the new and fresh thing,” Lapid said, in remarks that sounded uncharacteristically unrehearsed.
Lapid went further in a Wednesday night Channel 2 interview, after polls already revealed that Gabbay had – at least temporarily – stolen a chunk of his party’s support.
“Gabbay seems to be a sympathetic young man, but he doesn’t know what a security cabinet in wartime looks like,” said Lapid, who himself entered politics without any security or diplomatic experience.
The new Labor leader first responded by taking the high road, writing on Facebook that he watched the interview and would not respond with his own attacks.
“Yesh Atid voters were double-parked and now are coming home to us,” Gabbay wrote. “I am sorry to disappoint, but I really don’t intend to play the old political game and fight politicians in the press.”
Hours later, Gabbay did exactly that, telling Army Radio: “It’s odd he attacked my inexperience, because I came to politics with much more management experience than Lapid.”
Mocking Operation Protective Edge – during which Lapid served in the security cabinet – as “it was hardly the Six Day War,” Gabbay said State Comptroller Joseph Shapira criticized the operation, adding, “Negative experience isn’t such a good thing.”
He also challenged Lapid over the secularist vote. While MK Moshe Gafni, leader of United Torah Judaism’s Degel Hatorah branch, surprisingly praised Gabbay in Degel’s Yated Neeman newspaper, Health Minister Ya’acov Litzman, of UTJ’s Agudat Yisrael branch, gave Gabbay his own badge of honor by saying he was no different than Lapid.
While the conflagration in the Center-Left and Center – sparked by a reporter’s question – continued on Wednesday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with Kulanu head Moshe Kahlon and they decided to hold elections as late as possible.
In the meantime, they will undoubtedly enjoy watching Lapid and Gabbay fight each other in their turf war.