Labor chairman Gabbay backtracks on settlements

Gabbay caused a political uproar when he told Channel 2 in an interview that there was no need to evacuate settlements.

Avi Gabbay
Labor Party chairman Avi Gabbay shifted back leftward Saturday after a series of statements had indicated he was moving to the Right in order to woo Likud voters ahead of the next election.
Speaking at a Shabbat cultural event in Tel Aviv, Gabbay vowed that if elected prime minister he would stop all construction outside settlement blocs. He also said at the event that he would not join Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government even if US President Donald Trump initiated a peace plan and Bayit Yehudi leader Naftali Bennett removed his party from the coalition.
Saturday night, in an interview with Channel 10, Gabbay clarified that, even though he opposed building outside the settlement blocs, “100,000 people live there, and we cannot evacuate 100,000 people.”
Gabbay refused to define himself on the political map in the interview, saying that most Israelis no longer define themselves on the traditional Right-Left scale.
“I am in favor of two states for two peoples and I back negotiating with the Palestinians, but Jerusalem will remain united in any agreement,” he said.
On October 16, Gabbay caused a political uproar 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.”
Since his relatively hawkish statements, Kulanu leader Moshe Kahlon and Yisrael Beytenu head Avigdor Liberman said they would not join governments led by Gabbay.
He downplayed their criticism Saturday night, saying they would change their minds after the election and that their statements proved that he was the clear alternative to Netanyahu.
Reacting to recent allegations of sexual harassment by Israeli public figures, Gabbay said he was glad that such revelations were taking place. He said his opponents in the July 4 Labor leadership race had looked for skeletons in his closet but did not find any.
Meanwhile, coalition chairman David Bitan said at a Shabbat cultural event in Holon that he did not believe elections were on the way.
“Those are just rumors spread by Haaretz,” Bitan said. “No one in the coalition wants elections, including the prime minister. If we get through November, we will get to 2019.”