Current Seats: 19
Leader: Avi Gabbay
Other Notable Members: Shelly Yachimovich, Stav Shaffir, Eitan Cabel
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 prime ministership of Rabin 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, it has struggled to remain competitive and has lost much of its historic base of support among secular Israelis. 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 Hatnuah’s Tzipi Livni. The Zionist Union garnered 24 combined seats, making it the main party of the opposition following Netanyahu’s victory, and Herzog the official Leader of the Opposition. In July 2017, the Labor party held leadership elections and Avi Gabbay was elected the Chairman of the Labor party.
Gabbay, a political newcomer who until recently was relatively unknown, comes from the business world, where he ran a huge Israeli telecommunications corporation. His sudden rise may be a reflection of the new age in politics, the age of social media, which offers a shortcut to the top. On January 1, 2019, Gabbay announced that he would dissolve Labor’s “Zionist Union” partnership with Tzipi Livni, with whom he had fallen out.
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 to resolve the conflict. Some analysts believe that 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 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. He 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 giving 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.