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Why does Israeli Labor chief sound like Netanyahu?

The statements of Labor Party leader Avi Gabbay these last few days more so resemble the proposals by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu than the peaceful principles of Zionism visionary Theodor Herzl.
Avi Gabbai, the new leader of Israel's centre-left Labour party, delivers his victory speech after winning the Labour party primary runoff, at an event in Tel Aviv, Israel July 10, 2017. REUTERS/Amir Cohen - RC1D4C8AD5C0
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Labor Party Chairman Avi Gabbay made some controversial statements in recent days against settlement evacuation and against composing a coalition with the Joint List of predominantly Arab parties. In reaction, critics of Gabbay have dubbed him everything from “a political neophyte” to a “Trojan horse” and “a poor man’s Likudnik." What would they say if he succeeds in his bid to oust Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu? Would Meretz leader Zehava Gal-On and her friends in the left-wing party not drink a toast? Would supporters of the Arab Hadash Party in Israel’s Arab towns and villages not say “good riddance”? Would the Israeli peace camp not breathe a sigh of relief? To quote an old adage, you don’t argue with success. Gabbay's bitterest foes in the center-left camp would turn into his greatest fans, standing in line to reap the fruit of his labors. They would hail his initiative in veering to the right, applaud his opposition to the nuclear deal with Iran and laud his support for Israel’s withdrawal from UNESCO. When Prime Minister Gabbay saves the peace process from certain death, nongovernmental organization Peace Now will forget his courting of the West Bank settlers and his reflection that he’s “not sure there’s a Palestinian partner” for peace.

What are the prospects of such a scenario materializing? To cite the words of a popular song — "Tomorrow" — by one of Israel’s most lionized lyricists, the late Naomi Shemer, “All of this is not a fable and not a dream / It will happen tomorrow and if not tomorrow, the day after.” Speaking at an Oct. 14 event in the southern city of Beersheba, Gabbay said, "To be able to compose the next government, we need to reach some 27 seats and for [Yesh Atid leader] Yair Lapid to get 11 mandates. If we reach that and in addition the seats of Meretz and Joint List parties, we’ll get a majority-blocking bloc." And who else would he invite to join his bloc? “Anyone we want,” he said, naming the centrist Kulanu Party, the ultra-Orthodox parties, even Netanyahu’s Likud Party.

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