Ali Gabbay may change Israel’s Labour party –
but will he change my vote?
Last week Avi Gabbay won the leadership of the Israeli Labour party after just months as a member and barely more in politics, after leaving Kulanu, a party with no socialist pretensions.
I had to ask myself, what would he need to do to persuade me to vote Ha’avoda, ever again.
The last time I voted Labour, the last time I even considered Labour as a serious option, I voted Yitzhak Rabin into office. In the elections that year, for the first time, direct elections were held for the Prime Minister.
Unsurprisingly the Labor party campaign strongly focused on the popularity of its leader. Rabin was the great war hero of the Six Day War and the campaign even repurposed the popular song of the period ‘Nasser waits for Rabin’ as the campaign slogan.
The implication was you could trust Rabin, the soldier, to continue with the Labor policy of not negotiating with terrorists. Not to do what he eventually did, as Rabin, the politician, endanger Israel by bringing Yasser Arafat back to Ramallah.
Yes, I held myself personally responsible. The coalition government led by the Labor Party held a narrow seat majority achieved by bribing two members of Raphael Eitan’s Tzomet party to change sides and relying on the support of the two Arab parties who were not in coalition to keep it stable.
It would not have taken too many, like me, who under no circumstances, would have voted for Rabin or the Labor party had we known the result would be Oslo, to have kept Yitzhak Shamir in power.
We felt betrayed. His contempt for those legitimately protesting “they (the protesters) can spin around and around like propellers” only added to the feeling of betrayal.
Returning to the present …
The first act of Avi Gabbay, in his effort to convince me and those like me to come back is to admit that the Oslo Accords were bad democracy – deceiving the voters; bad government – deceiving the Knesset and the cabinet by presenting a fait accompli without debate and bad management – police, army, instrumentalities who would be needed to make the agreement work were informed only a week before the agreements were to be implemented.
To top it all they failed dismally. They did not bring peace or even greater peace. Labor has deliberately identified itself with a failed policy and themselves as failures.
This is not to suggest Avi Gabbay can turn back the clock. Under the principle that a problem can’t be solved until its existence is acknowledged Gabbay must present an innovative programme on his solution and if it can’t be solved how he would manage it in a way no one else has.
Even after more than two decades, that’s a huge ask. Although almost those involved are either dead or in their dotage there are still those who consider Oslo their crowning achievement.
Gabbay’s statements, “I believe what Rabin believed,” and his reported position that he will hand over Arab neighborhoods in East Jerusalem and villages around it to the Palestinian Authority, don’t lead to much optimism.
Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results is, as Einstein put it, INSANITY!
Gabbay the new Barak?
The impression I have received strongly from Labor supporters is what they would really like is Ehud Barak.
Not the original Ehud, to be sure. He’s already been tagged as an albatross but someone like him. An outsider without the stains and bruises of Labor internal power struggles. Someone vigorous who can convince the public of vigour in the party. Someone who had been a conspicuous success in an area outside politics. Someone who could bring genuine, new, young members to a party conspicuous by its grey hairs, without vote brokers. Someone to outshine Bibi Netanyahu – who, by the way, has never received my vote.
Towering above all, someone who could mount a brilliant, winning election campaign and put himself in the Prime Minister’s chair. The first labor PM in seventeen years.
Making real changes to the party – not so much. But changes will come.
As I began this piece I have voted for the Labor party before. Only time will tell whether a Labor party led by the multimillionaire former CEO of one of Israel’s largest privatised companies who BTW had no problems laying off workers won’t change the party to the point we will no longer recognise it as Labor. It is already hard enough recognising it in partnership with Tzipi Livni; without an organised labour connection and condemning settlement of the land of Israel.
Pity, I might have voted for it.
It won’t affect my vote but what’s with several media outlets profiling Gabbay as a self-made man growing up in a Ma’abara (Transit camp) in ? He was born in 1967. As far as I am aware the last Ma’abara was closed in 1963.
Also, how can a man whose entire life has depended on scholarships and salaries be described as self-made?
- The Oslo Disaster, Prof. Efraim Karsh, The Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies, 4 September 2016
BTW There’s an even better morph I created here. I just couldn’t figure out how to place it in 5MFI without losing the animation.