Gabbay, Zionist Union target Arab voters in Nazareth

The Zionist Union leader threatened critical party members with deselection from the electoral list.

Avi Gabbay
Zionist Union chairman Avi Gabbay, together with several MKs from his party, on Saturday staged a political gathering in Nazareth in an appeal to the Arab sector to vote for the opposition party.
“This is a conference that begins our campaign in Arab society. From here we will reach every single village,” said Gabbay, speaking at the event.
“I have no problem with personally going to every village, city or town to speak with people. We will deal with things in Arab society that the state is not dealing with,” he continued.
Gabbay addressed the matter of Arab deaths during criminal incidents in Israel, citing 1,165 such fatalities since 2000 – a figure he described as “awful” and “intolerable.
“Our agenda and our positions are very supportive of Arab society. We need to work to reduce gaps [in society] in order to achieve equality. That is what I did when I was a minister and that is what I will do in the future,” Gabbay said.
Former Labor MK and the first Arab-Israeli minister, Raleb Majadele, was also in attendance at the event. Majadele said that cooperation between the Zionist Union and the Joint List of Arab parties was critical in order to form a government.
Zionist Union MK Omer Bar Lev concurred, saying he “speaks a lot with [Joint List leader] MK Ayman Odeh and he stands with us,” adding that “if there will be the need, he will break up the Joint List.”
Bar Lev likely meant that Odeh, who is part of the Hadash party, which is one of four parties that comprise the Joint List Knesset faction, could bring his party into a coalition without the three other parties, which are more stridently anti-Zionist.
Separately, Meretz MK Tamar Zandberg, who is a candidate for the party’s leadership, spoke at a cultural event in Holon on Saturday and made a play for Zionist Union MKs to defect to Meretz, referring to efforts by some in the party to prevent elections this week.
“The Zionist Union party this week lent its hand to Likud to remain in power and this coalition to survive,” said Zandberg.
“There are reasonable members of the Zionist Union, and there are people there who opposed this thing, and I call on all members of Zionist Union who want to change this government and bring about new policies to join Meretz,” she declared.
Speaking on Channel 2’s Meet the Press program on Saturday night, Gabbay denied that he had sought to postpone elections.
He said that the Zionist Union had not wanted to “be in Netanyahu’s hands” regarding the timing of elections, but said that “the bottom line is that Netanyahu didn’t want elections and it was he who was afraid of elections not us.”
Regarding MKs in the party who have been critical of him, such as Hilik Bar, Gabbay warned that they were damaging the Zionist Union and “will watch the next Knesset from their homes” – a threat to remove them from the party electoral list at the next election.