April 2019 Results: 6 seats (loss of 13 seats)
Leader: Avi Gabbay (likely to be replaced before September 17)
Other Notable Members: Shelly Yachimovich, Itzik Shmuli, Stav Shaffir, Tal Russo
Date of Primary Election: February 12
Founded in 1968, the Labor party was descended from the historic “Mapai,” a social democratic workers’ party. Mapai and then Labor dominated Israeli politics for most of its early history until the late 1970s, with prominent leaders like David Ben-Gurion, Golda Meir, Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon Peres. Since the Rabin’s prime ministership from 1992-1995, the party has been considered generally supportive of the two-state solution and pursuing a diplomatic solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In recent years, the party has struggled to remain competitive and has lost much of its historic base among secular Israelis. In the April 2019 election, leader Avi Gabbay led the party to its worst ever result, winning just 6 seats in the Knesset (down from 19 seats in the previous Knesset). Since Labor last held the prime ministership in 2001, the party has cycled between eight different party leaders. In the 2015 election, Isaac Herzog, then Chairman of the Labor party, announced a joint slate called “The Zionist Union,” which he formed with the Hatnuah party’s Tzipi Livni. The Zionist Union garnered 24 combined seats in 2015, making it the main party of the opposition following Netanyahu’s victory, and Herzog the official Leader of the Opposition.
Views on Israeli-Palestinian Conflict
Historically the party which negotiated the Oslo Accords with the Palestinians, Labor has for the past 30 years supported a two-state solution. Some analysts believe the party’s lack of success in recent elections is at least partly due to its close identification with the Oslo framework. As chairman, Avi Gabbay has tried to mitigate Labor’s identification with Oslo by suggesting that any agreement with the Palestinians would not imply the evacuation of settlements located in a future Palestinian state. Gabbay has also spoken of a future Palestinian state being demilitarized and a future peace deal with the Palestinians being part of a regional agreement. He has also said he would freeze settlement construction outside of the blocs. Like most Israeli politicians, he supported President Trump’s decision to move the US embassy to Jerusalem and he has said Jerusalem must remain united in a peace deal with the Palestinians. Gabbay has called the settlement enterprise “the beautiful and devoted face of Zionism.”
Views of Democracy
Gabbay has been very critical of moves by Netanyahu to politicize the judicial system and expand his own powers, accusing the prime minister of trying to turn Israel into Turkey. He vociferously opposed a proposal that would give the prime minister the authority to declare war in conjunction only with the minister of defense, instead of the entire security cabinet. Gabbay also slammed a proposed new law that would limit the power of the Supreme Court to strike down Knesset legislation on constitutional grounds. The Labor party is also on record opposing the Nation-State Law, and says it will push to have it annulled. The party voted against a law enacted by the Knesset to bar supporters of boycotts, sanctions and divestment from entering the country.