It is entirely possible to understand Avi Gabbay. There was no harmony in the Zionist Union. Gabbay gave Tzipi Livni the position of opposition leader but she did not return the favor or even recognize him as the leader of the left-center bloc. Livni often spoke about bringing the left together, but she never mentioned Gabbay.
It is possible that Livni’s intentions were appropriate. She understood that the Zionist Union is sinking in the polls and sought a way to extricate it from this situation. Gabbay saw what she was doing and was not impressed. As far as he was concerned, Livni showed him only ingratitude.
On Tuesday, Gabbay got his payback on live television, when he dropped his political bombshell and dismantled the union, banishing Livni to the political wilderness with no prior warning. He wanted revenge and he got it.
Gabbay did not only want revenge, he also wanted to do something that would portray him as leadership material. But moments after his speech, he erred when, in what was clearly not a closed-door meeting, he told Labor Party members that Livni "fed me shit.” That was indignation, not leadership.
Gabbay also added a sting when he wished Livni well “in whichever party she finds herself,” a reference to her political zigzags. But how is Gabbay different than Livni? He himself admitted to voting Likud; he then went on to become an MK for the Kulanu Party, finally ending up in Labor. People in glass political homes really should not throw stones.
Meretz Chairwoman Tamar Zandberg declared that Livni was too far to the left of Gabbay. It is not clear if she was trying to compliment Livni, but this was the last thing she needed. To the left of Gabbay is Meretz, and such a depiction is precisely what would spook Benny Gantz. Netanyahu has been trying to depict her as a leftist in order to deprive her of votes from centrists who could vote Likud.
Livni was not ousted because she is a leftist. Indeed, I myself criticized her for making unnecessary statements, but Livni has always been a Zionist. True, she was on the right and changed her stance, but when she headed the country's negotiating team, Livni, more than others, held steadfast to Israel’s red lines.
While other politicians agreed to certain concessions regarding the Palestinian right of return, perhaps allowing in a few thousand or tens of thousands, Livni rejected it outright. Not even one Palestinian refugee. If only we could be so sure that other politicians on the left had her backbone; but to hell with the facts.
Across the Israeli political spectrum, Livni is one of the most experienced, articulate and successful people. She led the Kadima Party to 28 Knesset seats in 2009, one more than Netanyahu’s Likud. When she linked up with the Labor Party in 2013, the party doubled its strength.
Livni has plenty to offer. In order for her to overcome the rut she is in she must find a way for her true self to prevail over the negative portrayals. And, assuming she just doesn’t give up, she certainly has her work cut out for her.