A Right-Wing Trojan Horse Leading the
Israeli Labor Party to a New Disaster
By Uri Avnery
November 27, 2017
A Terrible Thought
SUDDENLY, A terrible
thought struck me. What if Avi Gabbay really believes what he is saying?
Impossible. He cannot really believe all those things. No, no.
But if he does? Where does that leave us?
AVI GABBAY is the new
leader of the Israeli Labor Party. Until recently, he was a
founding member of a moderate right-wing
party, Kulanu ("We all"). Without ever being elected to
the Knesset, he served as a junior minister. He resigned when Avigdor
Lieberman, considered by many as a semi-fascist (and the semi is far
from certain), was allowed to join the government as Minister of
Defense, the second most important post.
In a bold move, Gabbay
left Kulanu and joined the Labor Party (also known as "the Zionist
Camp") and was soon elected its chairman. However, he did not become the
official "Leader of the Opposition", because he was not a member of the
Knesset. (The formal title remained with his predecessor, the very nice
but rather insignificant Yitzhak Herzog.)
One of Gabbay's
outstanding qualities is the fact that he is "Oriental", an Eastern Jew.
He is the seventh of eight children in a family that immigrated from
Morocco in 1964, just three years before his birth.
This is very
important. The Labor Party is decried as "Western" (or Ashkenazi), the
party of the social elites, estranged from the mass of the Orientals. It
must overcome this characterization if it ever wants to attain power
In the Likud Party, the situation is the exact opposite.
The mass of Likud voters are Orientals, but Binyamin Netanyahu is as
Ashkenazi as you can get. The Orientals adore him, as they have never
adored any Oriental leader.
BUT GABBAY'S origin is not his only
attribute. From his humble beginnings he climbed the heights of economic
success. He became the CEO of one of Israel's most important
corporations, amassing a personal fortune on the way.
He is not
a charismatic leader, not a person to arouse the masses. Indeed, his
face is easily forgotten. But he took with him from the business world a
sound, logical way of thinking. In politics, logic is a rare commodity.
It can be obstructive.
The question now is: where does logic
DURING HIS few months as leader of the Labor Party,
Gabbay has deeply shocked many party members. Shocked them to the core.
About once a week, usually on Shabbat, Gabbay lets
loose a statement that seemingly contradicts everything the party has
stood for during its more than one hundred years of existence.
He once declared that peace does not mean that any of the
many dozens of settlements in the occupied territories must be removed.
Until then, the party line was that only the "settlement blocs"
located hard on the Green line - could remain, within the framework of
an agreed exchange of territories, and that all the others must be
removed. Gabbay's announcement caused quite a stir, since it probably
makes the "Two-State solution" impossible.
another occasion, Gabbay announced that he would never set up a
coalition with the "United List", the only Arab list in the Knesset.
This list consists of three separate and very different -
Arab parties, which were compelled to unite when Lieberman (the same)
raised the minimum electoral threshold in order to eliminate them.
It is very difficult (if not impossible) to put together a leftist
majority in the Knesset without the Arab list. The Oslo agreement would
never have come into being if the Arab members had not given their
unwavering support to Yitzhak Rabin (but without joining his
To make matters worse, Gabbay announced
that the only Arab member of the Labor Party in Parliament a popular
sports commentator would not be in the next Knesset. His
crime: he criticized the Balfour Declaration of 1917, which promised the
Jews a national home in Palestine, which at the time was an Arab land.
THE CLIMAX (so far) came last week, To top it all, Gabbay did
something that many Labor members found abhorrent.
There are in
Israel tens of thousands of non-Jewish African refugees,
especially from Sudan and Eritrea. They have been held for
several months in an open semi-detention facility, which is vastly
superior to conditions at home. Others vegetate in the poor quarters of
Tel Aviv, doing occasional jobs and competing with poor inhabitants,
making them very angry.
Israel claims to be a "Jewish State".
Jews have been persecuted refugees for centuries. But now the government
has decided not only to stem the flow, but to pay to dispose of the
refugees who are already here: paying the government of Rwanda 5000
dollars for every refugee they accept from us. The refugees themselves
will also get 3500 dollars each if they go voluntarily. If they refuse,
they will be put in a real prison indefinitely.
Deported? Imprisoned? In a "Jewish" state? Incredible. And here comes
Gabbay and calls upon his party to vote for this atrocity!
AS IF all this was not enough, Gabbay said something else incredible. He
denounced his party's stand on Judaism.
Netanyahu was caught on camera whispering into the ear of a
very old rabbi that "the Labor Party has forgotten what it means to be
Jewish". Incredibly, Gabbay repeated this accusation,
announcing that the Labor Party had indeed "forgotten what it
means to be Jewish".
Nothing could be more shocking
than that. The party was founded a century ago by convinced atheists,
like David Ben-Gurion, who refused to put a kippah on his head even at
funerals. (Sometimes even I do so out of courtesy to religious
The entire Zionist enterprise started as a rebellion
against religion. Almost all the important rabbis of his day condemned
Theodor Herzl, the founding father, as a heretic and cursed him in no
uncertain terms. God Himself evicted the Jews from their country because
of their sins, and only God could send His Messiah to bring them back
there, if and when He pleases.
The Zionist Labor Movement has
always been profoundly atheistic, except for minuscule religious
elements. What Gabbay was saying now amounted to an ideological
revolution. (By the way, gabbay is the Hebrew word for the administrator
of a synagogue.)
Nobody is quite sure what "to be Jewish" means
nowadays. Does Judaism represent a religion, a nation, or both? Does it
only mean that one identifies with Jewish history and tradition, or that
one believes in a God who has "chosen us from among the peoples"? And
who the hell cares?
SO DOES Gabbay really believe all this
stuff, or is it just political propaganda?
It may well be the
Gabbay is a seasoned businessman. His logic is that of a
businessman. It adds numbers.
There are two ways to view the
Israeli political landscape. One is the simple one: adding election
results. According to this system, the Right now enjoys a clear
majority. Apart from the Likud, it consists of two extreme rightist
parties, the "Jewish Home" and "Israel is Our Home", Kulanu and two
Orthodox parties. The Left (or "Center-Left" as they like to call
themselves these days) consists of Labor, Meretz, Ya'ir Lapid's "There
is a Future" and the Arab list.
To change the balance, Labor
must win over a considerable number of voters from the moderate Right.
Another way of looking at the picture sees a rightist minority
facing a leftist minority, with the great mass of the people in between.
The result is the same: the Center-Left must win over enough voters to
change the balance.
How? Gabbay's answer seems logical: steal
the clothes that the Right hung out to dry, as Churchill once put it.
Meaning in practice: adopt the
slogans of the right, look religious, act chauvinistic, make it possible
for Rightist voters to vote for you.
to be Gabbay's tactic. Can it succeed? In political life, the proof of
the pudding is in the eating. If he can attract enough right-wing
voters, he may change the balance. If his party loses voters on the
left, no problem. They will vote for Meretz, which makes no difference.
And if the Arabs are very angry, that makes no difference either: they
have no choice but to support a leftist government "from the outside".
Bur what if this approach leads to disaster? Political logic is
quite different from business logic. It is not based on a 2 + 2 = 4
equation. In politics the answer may well be 3 or 5.
And then it
hit me. What if this is not a political tactic at all?
What if Gabbay really believes in
God save us!
Share the link of this article with your facebook friends