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Israel opposition parties trade insults after dramatic split

Tzipi Livni
Image of former Minister of Foreign Affairs of Israel, Tzipi Livni [file photo]

After a dramatic split between Israel’s opposition parties, the party leaders have traded insults and ushered in a reshuffling of alliances. Former leader of the opposition Tzipi Livni, for example, claimed that Israeli Labor Party chair Avi Gabbay is “unfit to be Prime Minister” and only has one priority: “Me, me, me.”

In an interview with Israel’s Army Radio today, Livni said that, “Everyone who saw what happened yesterday knows he is not a candidate for prime minister.” The head of Israel’s centre-left Hatnua Party added, “He is not a real prime minister, he has no particular ideology.”

Livni’s comments came in response to Gabbay’s shock announcement yesterday that he was disbanding the Zionist Union – a left-wing alliance of the Hatnua and Labor parties that has served as Israel’s opposition – and would not run alongside Livni in Israel’s General Election on 9 April. He told a seemingly routine press conference that he had “hoped and believed that the new partnership [the Zionist Union] would lead to our joint growth, to a real connection […] but the smart public has seen that this is not the case.” He wished Livni “good luck with the upcoming elections, no matter which party” she aligns with.

Reports claim that Livni was not told of Gabbay’s announcement in advance. She told a press conference several hours later, “Last week, I said that our priorities must be the state, the party and then myself. What you heard today [in Gabbay’s speech] is what I heard throughout this entire period: Me, me, me […] He doesn’t want a partnership. The way he ended things today proves that.”

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Behind closed doors, reported Arutz Sheva, Gabbay also lashed out at Livni, telling a Labor meeting yesterday, “I had to take s*** from her [Livni] the entire time from the moment she became [opposition leader]. Whenever there was good news, she ran to the media. When times weren’t as good, she disappeared and left us all the work.”

Gabbay has been quick to replace Livni as leader of the opposition, a position he cannot take on himself because, as the Times of Israel explained, he is not a member of the Knesset (parliament). Instead, he appointed Labor MK Shelly Yachimovich to assume the position until after the election is over. “The main work of the head of the opposition is during the term of the Knesset and not after its dissolution, but even under these circumstances I promise to represent the entire opposition with loyalty and respect,” Yachimovich explained.

Though Gabbay’s partnership with Livni has long been fraught, commentators have speculated that yesterday’s move was likely motivated by a desire to form a partnership with Benny Gantz’s newly-formed “Resilience for Israel Party”. Gantz announced last week his intention to run in April’s election, though the exact alignment of his new party is yet to be made clear. His team was quick to take credit for yesterday’s Zionist Union split, reported Ynet, saying that it was indicative of the political system “adjusting” to the new party” and that the entrance of the former Chief of General Staff of the Israel Defence Forces into politics had “shocked the system”.

The Labor Party also confirmed these suspicions, with MK Itzik Shmuli telling Ynet that: “There are new advantages to this situation. We’ll do everything in our power to unite with Gantz’s new party and form a united front. Gantz, who remains quiet for the now, also needs to voice his intentions.”

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