The Israeli Labor Party – a fit sister party for Labour?

The Israeli Labor Party is, like our Labour Party, a member of the Socialist International.

The Haaretz editorial reprinted here is a bitter critique of that Party and its move even further to the right under its newest leader, Avi Gabbay. And Ben White in the Independent argues: “The uncomfortable reality is that Gabbay’s racism, as well as his support for settlements and disproportionate military force, is entirely consistent with the [Israeli] Labor Party’s past and present.”

We trust that all Jewish members in and around the Labour Party, starting with Labour Friends of Israel and Jewish Labour Movement, will be appalled by these developments and hope to hear loud voices of condemnation from all concerned.

Israeli Labor Party Leader: The New Likudnik

Labor party members, like their colleagues in the left-wing camp, deserve a leader who will show loyalty to their basic values, not Likud’s

Haaretz Editorial, 18 October 2017

[see also Ben White’s Don’t believe the hype about Israel’s Labour Party being progressive – it’s just proven that it’s decidedly not]


Avi Gabbay, who took the Labor party election by storm and was elected chairman in hopes of breathing new life into the peace camp, is proving that he is no different than his predecessors, who fell into the trap of sucking up to the right. Gabbay’s blitz began with him saying, “We will not sit in the same government as the Joint List I don’t see any [connection] between us.” Then followed a statement that there is no need to remove settlements as part of a peace agreement. This shows us that the new Labor chairman is in the midst of a hollow campaign for his image.

Gabbay’s PR trick – during his campaign he declared he was a man of the left, and his victory speech emphasized that Israel needs “leadership that takes care of Dimona and not just Amona” – is all too familiar.

In an attempt to signal to right-wing voters, Gabbay has come out with right-wing statements that aim to distance him from the Arabs and show support for the settlements. During her term as Labor chairwoman, Zionist Union lawmaker Shelly Yacimovich said things like, “I certainly don’t see the settlements project as a sin and crime” and “to call Labor left-wing is a historic wrong.” Isaac Herzog, who succeeded her, said that “We must stop giving the impression that we are Arab-lovers.”

The result of these moves is also well-known: Right-wing voters aren’t tempted by a poor imitation of a right-wing party and remain in their political home, while Labor party heads are replaced one after another. It is surprising that Gabbay, who is a management expert, has not internalized these repeated failures. But the damage caused by his statements reaches far beyond the electoral domain. Gabbay, together with Yesh Atid head Yair Lapid – who’s busy with his own pointless sycophancy of the imaginary right-religious-nationalist electorate while politically excluding Arabs and leftists (including the persecution of human rights organizations for political gain) – is laying the groundwork for delegitimizing the opposition to right-wing rule.

Opposition leaders’ flight from “left-wing positions” as if they were on fire contributes to such views. It also aids in erasing the ideological opposition to the right’s path. If even the chairman of the Labor party is embarrassed to express leftist political policies out loud, then how is it possible to complain about the contempt the right and center have for the left?

Labor party members, like their colleagues in the left-wing camp, deserve a leader who will show loyalty to their basic values. Not just the left but the entire country needs a true opposition. Labor took a risk and bet on a relatively anonymous candidate in hopes of renewing its ranks. But woe be it if they discover that they unintentionally replaced their worldview instead. If the party does not sober up quickly, the Zionist Union and the rest of the opposition are sentencing themselves to extinction and absorption into the Likud.

The above article is Haaretz’s lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel


Don’t believe the hype about Israel’s Labour Party being progressive – it’s just proven that it’s decidedly not

Ben White, Independent, 17 October 2017


The leader of Israel’s main opposition party, Labour chair Avi Gabbay, is currently making headlines for all the wrong reasons.

Yesterday, Gabbay told Israeli television that he opposed discussing the removal of even the most isolated illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank. The remarks came a day after Gabbay told a meeting of party activists that “the Arabs have to be afraid of us”. He added: “They fire one missile – you fire 20. That’s all they understand in the Middle East”.

On Saturday, meanwhile, Gabbay vowed to never enter into a coalition with the Joint List, a Knesset group dominated by parties representing Palestinian citizens.

The Israeli Labor Party is often presented as a “moderate” alternative to Benjamin Netanyahu – so what’s going on here?

In one sense, it is not a big surprise; Gabbay, after all, has already previously served in a Netanyahu cabinet, as I noted when the Labour leader won the leadership election in July. Some predicted Gabbay would seek to attract Likud supporters.

But beyond Gabbay’s immediate goals, his series of blunt interventions is a valuable opportunity to subject the Israeli Labour Party to the kind of critical scrutiny it often avoids, particularly in the West, where some – like the Jewish Labour Movement and Labour Friends of Israel – support the party as “progressive” allies in the search for peace.

Israeli minister attempts selfie with Trump to Netanyahu’s dismay

The uncomfortable reality is that Gabbay’s racism, as well as his support for settlements and disproportionate military force, is entirely consistent with the Labour Party’s past and present.

Previous leader Isaac Herzog ran for prime minister with an advert boasting how he “understands the Arab mentality”. On another occasion, Herzog declared: “I want to keep a Jewish state with a Jewish majority…I don’t want a Palestinian prime minister in Israel”.

It was the Labour Party, as Israeli news site +972 Magazine put it, whose “glory days included the Nakba [the ethnic cleansing of Palestine in 1948]”, as well as “conquering and settling the West Bank and East Jerusalem”.

Just last month, former Israeli premier Ehud Barak bemoaned the fact that a state ceremony celebrating 50 years of the occupation of the West Bank did not give enough credit to the Labour leaders who “consolidated and led the settlement enterprise for a decade”.

Barak was the Labour prime minister, of course, when the Israeli army fired 1.3 million bullets at Palestinian protesters during the first few days of what became the Second Intifada.

Gabbay’s remarks provide three, vital takeaways. First, mere lip service to a “two-state solution” is meaningless because it can mean so many different things.

The Israeli Labour Party has endorsed a vision of “separation” – to an international audience, a “two-state solution” – where Palestinians are condemned to walled-in cantons. The parameters of this future Palestinian “state” are those of a Bantustan.

“I believe that the Land of Israel belongs to the Jews,” Gabbay said today. “God promised Abraham the entire Land of Israel, but I also believe that since there are 4.5 million Arabs here, we have to compromise in order to create a situation in which we live in our country with a Jewish majority.”

Second, more broadly, the Israeli maximum on offer does not meet the Palestinians’ minimum – or the standards of international law.

Netanyahu likes the status quo. His coalition includes those, like Minister Naftali Bennett, who want formal annexation of the majority of the West Bank. But all the Labor Party is offering by way of an alternative is an Israeli-defined “separation” plan that smacks of a “smarter” version of apartheid.

In other words, none of the Israeli political parties who are either part of the current ruling coalition, or who could feasibly lead an alternative one, support a solution based on international law and the Palestinian people’s right to self-determination, sovereignty, and return.

Finally, understanding the nature of the Israeli opposition underlines the importance of tactics like Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS). While some claim boycotts only empower the Right, the Israeli Labour Party offers a sobering reality check about what is on offer from the “moderates”.

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Comments (2)

  • John says:

    Ben White is right.
    Labour or Labor in Israel has always supported the Eretz Yisrael project.
    They cannot possibly be considered as socialists now – or ever.
    They should be kicked out of the Socialist International.
    Israel clearly needs a completely new democratic socialist party.
    Though who will form it to speak truth to power is hard to say.

  • Neil Cameron says:

    Gabbay has also made it clear that and peace agreement with the Palestinians wouldn’t mean giving up the (illegal) settlements. His party should be kicked out of the Socialist International.
    We should also be asking if LFI and JLM ‘share the aims and values of the Labour Party’given their uncritical support

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