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Israël: Dramatic Split in Israeli Left as Labor Party Breaks Away From Tzipi Livni

Tuesday 1 January 2019, by siawi3


Dramatic Split in Israeli Left as Labor Party Breaks Away From Tzipi Livni

Livni taken by surprise at press conference
Zionist Union fared poorly in pre-election polls
Center-left playing field gets even more crowded ahead of April 9

Jonathan Lis

Jan 01, 2019 10:52 AM

Labor Party leader Avi Gabbay announced on Tuesday the break-up of the Zionist Union, with Tzipi Livni’s Hatnuah party. The Zionist Union, which won 24 seats in the last election, has tanked in recent polls to as low as nine seats ahead of the April 9 election.

In a press conference, Gabbay said he “still believes in partnerships and connections,” but said “successful connections require friendship, abiding by agreements and loyalty to the path ahead.”

Gabbay wished Livni luck, but Hatnua leader, who seemed surprised by the announcement, said she would rather not comment. Gabbay’s dramatic announcement also took the Zionist Union’s lawmakers by surprise.

According to Gabbay, despite preserving the union when he was elected party leader, as well as granting Livni the post of opposition head, the public didn’t rally behind the Zionist Union.

“The public is smart. They see that this is not the case and moved away,” he said.

A Labor lawmaker, who asked to remain anonymous, said that “time will tell whether dismantling Zionist Union was a smart move. But it shouldn’t have been done as a public humiliation to Livni.”

Following Gabbay’s announcement, Livni thanked supporters in a tweet, vowing a “focus on the important national challenges before us.”

This latest development adds yet another player to the already-crowded center-left playing field. Other parties preparing to run in the election include Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid, Hosen L’Yisrael, a newly established party by former military chief Benny Gantz, Moshe Kahlon’s Kulanu party and new party headed by lawmaker Orly Levy-Abekasis. Parties left of Zionist Union include Meretz and Joint List.

Labor, Israel’s flagship left-wing party, headed then by Isaac Herzog, was resurgent in early 2015 after joining lists with Livni’s center-left Hatnuah to form Zionist Union. The combined slate emerged in the 2015 election as Likud’s main competition, leading in most polls by a razor-thin margin. That partnership paid off. Zionist Union won 24 Knesset seats, compared to 15 (Labor) and six (Hatnuah) in the 2013 election. However, Netanyahu won 30 seats and formed the government.

The breakup comes a days after the right wing saw its own bloc realigning ahead of the election. On Saturday, the two leaders of Habayit Hayehudi said they were quitting their right-wing party to form a new outfit that would attract both secular and religious voters.

Education Minister Naftali Bennett and Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked said they would co-chair the new party, Hayamin Hehadash, or the New Right.

Maj. Gen. (ret.) Orna Barbivai joins Lapid’s Yesh Atid

Maj. Gen. (ret.) Oran Barbivai said Tuesday that she is joining Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid party. At a press conference, Lapid said that he will not give up the leadership in a potential future merger ahead of the election between center-left parties.

Barbivai, who retired from active service in 2014, was the highest-ranking female officer in the Israel Defense Forces and the first female major general. Barbivai served for three years as head of the army’s personnel directorate.