Gabbay dissolves Zionist Union

Labour Chairman Avi Gabbay dissolved the Zionist Union yesterday, ending the Labour party’s partnership with Tzipi Livni’s Hatnua party. Gabbay made the announcement during a party meeting that was broadcast live and without informing Livni.

Gabbay said that while he had “hoped and believed that the new partnership would lead to our joint growth, to a real connection, and to mutual support … but the smart public has seen that this is not the case, and has drawn away”. He continued, saying he “still believes in partnerships and connections, but successful connections require friendship, abiding by agreements and loyalty to the path ahead … it does not exist in this partnership”.

There was audible shock in the room, as Gabbay did not give Labour politicians any prior warning of the announcement. Livni held her own press conference later in the day, admitting the move came as a complete surprise and slamming Gabbay for not being willing to engage in a partnership. She said: “Last week I said our priorities should be Israel, the party, and then me, what you heard today [from Gabbay] is ‘me me me.’”

Some Israeli commentators have suggested the move may strengthen Gabbay’s position after weeks of poor poll ratings. However, the split in the Zionist Union will likely weaken the centre-Left bloc, which is seeking to unseat Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the upcoming elections as there will now be six parties fighting for votes in the same space.

On Saturday night, Jewish Home Chairman and Education Minister Naftali Bennett and Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked announced they were leaving their party to form a new religious-secular right wing party named HaYemin HeHadash, or “the new Right”. This move could split the right-wing bloc supporting Netanyahu and reduce its number of Knesset seats as smaller right-wing parties may not reach the 3.25 per cent threshold to enter the Knesset.