Orly Levy: Like father, like daughter - analysis

Levy-Abecassis, is no stranger to the phenomenon of party jumping. She saw it up close and personal.

Gesher leader Orly Levy-Abecassis (photo credit: AVSHALOM SASSONI)
Gesher leader Orly Levy-Abecassis
(photo credit: AVSHALOM SASSONI)
Orly Levy-Abecassis was 23 when her father, Likud politician David Levy, ran and lost to Benjamin Netanyahu for the Likud leadership in 1996. Following that loss, Levy – a protegé of Menachem Begin – left the Likud and, to the taunts of his former Likud colleges, set up his own party: Gesher.
A few months later, Gesher joined up with the Likud and the right-wing Tzomet Party of Rafael Eitan in the 1996 election to defeat Shimon Peres.
Two years later, when Orly Levy was 25, her father, unhappy with his treatment by Netanyahu, split from the Likud and in the 1999 elections joined his party up with Meimad and the Labor Party to form Ehud Barak’s One Israel Party. He joined Barak’s government but quit a year later amid Barak’s plan to withdraw from Lebanon.
Levy-Abecassis, therefore, is no stranger to the phenomenon of party jumping. She saw it up close and personal – both the decision to jump parties and the toxic reactions that followed.
It did nothing to deter her.
The Labor-Gesher-Meretz MK triggered a political earthquake on Tuesday by announcing on Facebook that she would not support a minority government dependent on the Joint List.
“I will not support a government that leans on the support of Balad and the Joint List, and I don’t see myself as obligated anymore more to cooperation with Meretz, something forced upon me and my partner [Labor head] Amir Peretz, with pressure from many outside sources, first and foremost Blue and White.”
Like her father, she has a history of party jumping as well.
After a successful career as a model and television presenter, Levy-Abecassis, the ninth of David Levy’s 12 children (her older brother Jackie Levy is mayor of Beit She’an and also a former Likud MK), first entered the Knesset on Avigdor Liberman’s Yisrael Beytenu list in 2009.
She distinguished herself as a champion of social issues, leading the public-housing lobby, advancing social legislation and being a vocal champion of social rights and equality. Since most of her parliamentary career focused on socioeconomic issues, little is known about her position on the marquee diplomatic issues.
In the 2015 elections, Liberman placed No. 2 his list. But when the party negotiated with Netanyahu to join the coalition a year later, she felt slighted at being left out of the negotiations and for being overlooked as the party’s second ministerial candidate, a job that went to Sofa Landver, with Liberman getting the top slot as defense minister.
Levy-Abecassis broke away from Yisrael Beytenu and formed a new faction, which she called after her father’s ex-party: Gesher. To a certain extent, the two parties came into being in similar ways, which detractors called “illegitimate.”
When Levy-Abecassis bolted from Yisrael Beytenu and set up Gesher, she said it would break the mold of traditional Right-Left politics.
“There’s this constant divide between Right and Left, which is a divide that serves the interests of members of the old world order,” she said, stressing that she wanted to focus on socioeconomic issues.
“I want to advance these issues. I want to put them front and center. I want to make them issues that perhaps will break the status quo and create in my eyes a new order,” she said.
At the time, voices inside Yisrael Beytenu accused her of stealing one of their mandates.
On Wednesday, the day after she said she could not support a government resting on the Joint List and Balad, she was accused of stealing a mandate from the Left and deceiving voters who voted for a left-wing party.
Meretz leader Nitzan Horowitz said she had spit in the face of the Labor-Gesher-Meretz voters and needed to quit and return her mandate to the party. Former Meretz head Tamar Zandberg wondered out loud in a radio interview how Levy-Abecassis could sleep at night.
Levy-Abecassis didn’t respond on Wednesday, maintaining a radio silence. But given that her father came under similar attacks with his party hoping, and that she had come under similar attacks in the past after leaving Yisrael Beytenu, it is doubtful any of this came as much of a surprise – or will have much of an impact on her.