(JNS.org) Israel’s Labor party elected Avi Gabbay as its new leader Monday amid a major shakeup within the country’s second-largest party.
Gabbay defeated Amir Peretz, a former defense minister, with nearly 53 percent of the vote. In a major upset last week, Israeli opposition leader Isaac Herzog came in a distant third behind Gabbay and Peretz in the first round of voting for the party leadership.
Since Gabbay does not currently hold a seat in the Knesset, he must pick a current Israeli lawmaker to serve as opposition leader. Gabbay has indicated he will likely keep Herzog in that role.
Herzog was Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s top challenger in Israel's March 2015 election, when Labor teamed with Tzipi Livni’s Hatnuah party to form the Zionist Union alliance. But Herzog seemed to alienated many supporters after that election by holding secret coalition talks with Netanyahu in 2016.
Gabbay, a former Kulanu party member and an environmental protection minister in Netanyahu’s government before quitting in 2016, brings a new right-wing outlook to the traditionally left-wing Labor party. As the new Labor leader, Gabbay faces an uphill political battle, as recent polling suggests the party may lose nearly half of its 24 Knesset seats in future elections.