Last summer liberal Zionists heralded the newest Labor leader in Israel, Avi Gabbay, as a dynamic Mizrahi who might revive the party. Ehud Barak called Gabbay’s selection a “revolution,” and the New York Times said the self-made millionaire represented “electrifying” “liberal forces” in opposition to conservative Likud.
Gabbay had brought a “new spirit” to the party, the Times’s Isabel Kershner said. While Gabbay declared, “[T]o all those who thought the Israeli citizens had lost hope in change, to all those — tonight is the answer.”
Well, in the last few days Gabbay has done his best to imitate Benjamin Netanyahu by saying he would never evacuate settlements and never form a governing coalition with Palestinians.
Gabbay’s comments are a good sign of just how far right the Jewish Israeli polity has gone today. The American press has largely ignored the news, typically, but liberal Zionists have condemned him. For instance, Daniel Seidemann tweeted,
Bad news: head of our “moderate opposition” is a racist, political invetebrate. Good news: he speaks English, so you’ll hear it yourselves.
Here’s the news. Six days ago Haaretz quoted Gabbay saying that he would never form a governing coalition with the Joint List, which is mostly Palestinian. But he would make a coalition with rightwing Jews.
“We will not share a government with the Joint List, period,” Gabbay said at a political forum in Be’er Sheva. “Let that be clear.”…
Gabbay didn’t reject the possibility of being part of a governing coalition alongside Kulanu, Yisrael Beiteinu and the ultra-Orthodox parties…
The leading Palestinian politician in Israel, Ayman Odeh, said Gabbay was no different from Netanyahu.
“Someone who doesn’t view Arab citizens and their elected representatives as a legitimate group, doesn’t present a real alternative to the right,” he said.
“Since the days of Ehud Barak, the Labor Party has strived to be a pale replica of the right – and the citizens always choose the original. To be drawn into the delegitimization campaign led by the prime minister against Arab citizens is a huge gift to the far-right coalition headed by Netanyahu and the settlers.”
Two days after that, Gabbay threw his support behind the settlers, saying that he wouldn’t evacuate illegal settlements as part of a peace deal. The Times of Israel reported, “New leader shifts main opposition party sharply to the right.”
“I won’t evacuate settlements in the framework of a peace deal,” said Gabbay… If you are making peace, why do you need to evacuate?”
Elaborating on his comments, Gabbay said the notion any peace deal would by necessity require the evacuation of settlements is mistaken.
“I think the dynamic and terminology that have become commonplace here, that ‘if you make peace — evacuate,’ is not in fact correct,” he said.
A lot of Labor Zionists were upset. Jewish Insider reported:
Left-wing figures blasted Gabbay for trying to appease the settlers. Tzipi Livni, Gabbay’s partner in the Zionist Union, sent out an SMS message stressing that Gabbay’s stance does not reflect her “Hatnua” party’s position, nor that of the Zionist Union, while Labor MK Itzik Shmuli tweeted that “separation into two states is an existential interest that will require painful concessions and evacuation of territory.”
Gabbay later walked it back, telling Ynet that the only settlements he wouldn’t evacuate were the big settlement blocs. Gabbay said the point was separation:
“I think we should aspire to reach an agreement with the Palestinians based on the principle of separating from the Palestinians, and based on the two states to two peoples principle.”
So that’s what it’s all about: the “principle” of separating Jews and Palestinians. I understand the resort to partition as a means of separating hostile groups. But ennobling that separation as a “principle”– that’s the essence of Zionism. Zionists want to have a Jewish majority by any means. And to hell with the Palestinians who are left in that state; they can’t be members of the governing coalition.
You have to ask, When have things been all that different in Israel? The settlement project began under Labor. And Labor has often formed coalitions with far-right Jewish parties while eschewing coalitions with Palestinians. Labor never wanted to have Palestinian partners in its governing coalitions because doing so would undermine that government’s legitimacy in the Jewish state.
Bottom line, no one should be all that surprised that Gabbay is a political invertebrate and a racist… These attitudes are the product of Jewish nationalism. It’s time liberal Zionists caught a clue.
Thanks to Scott Roth and Todd Pierce.