Israel’s Labour party leader throws in the towel, admits election failure

Labor chairman MK Avi Gabbay announced Tuesday that he would not run for the leadership of the Labor Party in the upcoming party primaries in July.

By David Isaac, World Israel News 

Labor chief Avi Gabbay won’t run in the July 2 party primaries, he said on Tuesday morning.

“To my supporters, to my friends, to my partners, and to my dear loved ones, I want to inform you that I will not be running for leadership of the party in the elections which will be held next month,” Gabbay posted to Facebook.

“The direction was clear already on the night of the last election, but important decisions cannot be made in the heat of the moment, so I waited until things came to the fore in order to make my decision and announce it,” he wrote.

Gabbay referred to Labor’s poor showing in the April vote. The party won only six seats, down from 19 when it ran as the Zionist Union, a political alliance that included the smaller Hatnuah party led by Tzipi Livni.

Gabbay’s very public break with Livni on January 1, in which he announced the split on live TV without informing her first as she sat beside him, turned out to be ineffective in preventing the collapse that polls predicted awaited Labor in the next elections.

“The Labor Party has never been in such a difficult situation, there has never been such an atmosphere of gloom and helplessness in the face of the polls,” a high-ranking Knesset member from Labor told Israel Hayom at the time.

The April election, which was Labor’s worst-ever showing, evidently made it impossible for Gabbay to continue as the party’s head.

Even before Gabbay’s announcement, several Labor members declared their intention to run for the position of Labor party chairman, including Amir Peretz, who had served in the position, and Stav Shaffir, a younger member of the Labor party who announced her candidacy on June 7, saying it’s time to “start anew.”

Other names mentioned for the party’s leadership are former Prime Minister Ehud Barak and former IDF Deputy Chief of Staff Yair Golan. Neither have formally announced their candidacy.

Gabbay’s decision follows on the heels of former IDF general Tal Russo’s announcement Monday that he was quitting politics. The No. 2 man in Labor, considered a key ally of Gabbay, had only just entered politics in the April election.

“Friends, I went into politics four months ago with great plans to change the Labor party and the State of Israel, no less,” Russo said.

“But given the circumstances in which we find ourselves – early elections and new primaries to choose the leader of the [Labor] party after such a short period of time – I won’t be able to do the things I had hoped. I don’t want to be part of the struggle over an inheritance [of the leadership of the party], so I remove my candidacy for control of the party and from the Knesset list for the 22nd Knesset,” he said.

Russo served just a month and a half in the Knesset.