Labor Chairman Avi Gabbay's shock announcement that he was dissolving his partnership with Tzipi Livni has exposed deep divisions between the two over the direction and policy of the Zionist Union faction, as well as apparent personal hostility.
Gabbay, who inherited the partnership from his Labor predeccessor Isaac Herzog, told party members after the announcement that Livni had given him a difficult time from the moment she assumed the position of opposition leader.
"There was never any true partnership, only harm," Gabbay said. "When there was good news, she would run to the media, but when things were bleaker she was nowhere to be found and left us to do all the work.”
In fact, the resentment appears to run so deep that Gabbay even reportedly turned off his teleprompter ahead of his announcement to the now-defunct Zionist Union faction so that Livni, who was sitting beside him, would not know what was coming.
Livni sat in stunned silence at Gabbay's words, taking her time to respond. When she did make a statement (on Twitter, a trend that has hit Israel too), it was to thank her supporters and well-wishers and vow that there would be "a revolution in the upcoming elections."
Just a week ago, Livni called for the center and left parties to unite ahead of the 2019 elections, which were announced last month.
“Each of us must put our egos aside for the common goal, and that is an revolution," she said. "I have already made sacrifices in the past and I am prepared to do it again. These mergers are crucial in order to form a wide bloc which is vital for the coming elections.”
But Gabbay disapproved of this sentiment. The two held talks, but failed to find common ground. Gabbay felt that Livni was spoiling things and feared that she might do anything to form a large political bloc — even at his expense. Therefore, he decided to preempt such a move and announced the split as she sat beside him.
The two had been set to meet at 3pm Tuesday, and Livni planned to express her dissatisfaction with the Zionist Union election campaign, which was to focus on social issues and not the geopolitical front. The meeting of course was cancelled.
“Gabbay never accepted the terms of the partnership, a partnership that yielded 24 Knesset seats,” said MK Yoel Hasson of Hatnuah. “The (poor) poll results are directly due to Gabbay’s leadership alone. In his distress, Gabbay turned the Zionist Union into a niche party and ignored political-security matters. Running the country is a serious matter for statesmen.”
Labor members expressed support for Gabbay’s decision to split from Livni, believing that it had already damaged them electorally.