Election Honeymoon Over for Labor Chairman Avi Gabbay
If Avi Gabbay ever had a “honeymoon” after being elected chairman of the Labor Party on July 10, the romance came to an end Sunday. In a seven-page manifesto entitled “Toolbox for Victory” the new party leader called for a series of amendments to the party constitution, including granting the party chairman the right to to choose a spot on the party’s election slate for the Labor secretary general as well as the right to reserve four spots on the party’s election list for political allies, including two in the top 10 spaces. The proposed amendment specifies that the chairman’s candidates to be slotted into the election list do not have to be members of the Labor Party.
In a letter to Labor Party members introducing the proposed amendments, Gabbay said the changes are necessary in order to stabilize the party and to counter longstanding trends of infighting and instability that has defined Labor for decades. Gabbay noted that the party has failed repeatedly in recent decades at winning elections, despite what he called a plurality of “excellent, ethical leaders public servants, at the national, local and community levels.” He said the party has so often been preoccupied with navigating internal party tensions that is has lacked the ability to “turn outwards” and to address issues of national concern to the general electorate.
In order to mount a serious challenge to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and the Likud Party during Israel’s next general election, Gabbay wrote, scheduled to be held no later than November, 2019, Gabbay said his party must get its own figurative house in order in order to be able to project a compelling message to voters.
Predictably, reaction from veteran Labor Party activists was fast in coming, and less than complimentary. General Secretary Eran Hermoni accused Gabbay of trying to turn Labor into a “one-man party” and called on him to rescind the amendment proposals.
“I call on the chairman to act responsibly and to refrain from making drastic, unilateral and draconian suggestions that could create unnecessary tensions within the party for no reason,” Hermoni said.
Gabbay’s surprise victory over a field of six candidates – including party heavyweights Amir Peretz and then-chairman Yitzhak Herzog – sent shockwaves through the party, particularly amongst party veterans who viewed the former chairman of the Bezeq telecommunications conglomerate as an outsider with no roots in party or history of left-of-center activism.
If Avi Gabbay ever had a “honeymoon” after being elected chairman of the Labor Party on July 10, the romance came to an end Sunday. Photo Credit: Eitan Elhadez/TPS