(January 2, 2019 / Yori Yalon and Israel Hayom Staff) Labor Party leader Avi Gabbay on Tuesday named MK Shelly Yachimovich as head of the opposition, replacing Tzipi Livni. The nomination came just hours after Gabbay abruptly dissolved the Zionist Union faction, his party’s alliance with Livni’s Hatnuah Party, effectively ousting Livni from the role.
“I am proud of Shelly. She is a terrific MK who leads determined struggles in and out of the Knesset,” said Gabbay. “Shelly filled the role of opposition leader in the past and did so well. She will help us prepare for the election and for victory.”
Yachimovich said she would work to galvanize the opposition, adding, “We will work together toward the goal of replacing the government with one that pursues peace, fights socio-economic gaps and respects democracy and the rule of law.”
She further said Gabbay dismissing Livni was “a brave act of leadership” as Livni “refused to accept Gabbay’s leadership and weakened the party.”
Meanwhile, many in Labor who agreed with the split from Hatnuah were critical of Gabbay for choosing to announce it in a live press conference, clearly blindsiding Livni.
Gabbay, whose approval ratings within the party have plummeted since he was elected in July 2017, also evoked Labor members’ ire by not consulting with anyone prior to announcing the dissolution of Zionist Union; some even called him a “dictator.”
“That’s not how you do things, especially things like this,” a senior Labor lawmaker said. “You can’t run a democratic party that has set institutions like a one-man show, like a dictatorship.
“I have no doubt that if there was a constitutional way [in Labor] to remove Gabbay as chairman and name another party leader, we would have done so a long time ago, and certainly in light of what he did today [Tuesday],” he said.
The official further predicted that Gabbay’s chances of winning the Feb. 12 Labor primaries were low, as under his leadership the party’s public standing has deteriorated to an unprecedented low.
Another party insider said, “There’s no teamwork. He doesn’t consult with anyone. What he did [dissolving Zionist Union] was just stupid. Most party members think so, but they’re afraid of saying so because it could hurt the party further.”
Briefing faction members on the move on Tuesday Gabbay justified his actions saying Livni became a “political and personal liability.”
“What I did was a move that, as far as I was concerned, freed us from this burden. … Tzipi’s voters are already in [Israel Resilience Party leader] Benny Gantz’s pocket. We did not lose anything, we just ridded ourselves of a problem,” he said.
Veteran Labor MK Eitan Cabel retorted, “I don’t want to talk about the shaming you imposed on Tzipi without her knowledge or our knowledge. But this move was a mistake. You do whatever you want without consulting anyone? You decide for all of us? This party was established long before you came along. This isn’t a private business you own. You think this will somehow see the party bounce back to 24 seats in the polls? You had no legitimacy to make such a decision without asking us.”
Others expressed concerns that Labor, which was projected to win eight Knesset seats had Zionist Union continued to exist, will drop below the 3.25 percent electoral threshold following Gabbay’s move and find itself out of the Knesset altogether.