Avi Gabai surprised the political establishment in an upset victory against Amir Peretz for labor party head. Amir Peretz had the support of former head Isaac Herzog and the Histadrut Worker’s Union but it didn’t help him win.
However religious Jews have nothing to be happy about as Avi Gabai is an outspoken anti-religious activist who hopes to implement his vision if elected prime minister. “I won’t give up on having public transportation on Shabbat” was one of his first declarations to his constituents. When asked about the ‘Kotel Deal’ meant to give reform control over the Western Wall area he declared: “I voted for the deal as minister and when I’m prime minister I’ll implement it immediately. There’s no contradiction between Judaism, which is important to me and standing together with your wife near the Western Wall. There’s no reason to prohibit it and to have the stringent religious opinion control our lives. They’re unnecessarily stringent.”
Gabbai’s opinions about conversion are equally upsetting and worrisome: “I will allow city rabbis to make conversions and recognize Conservative and Reform conversions. If someone identifies with the Jewish nation and wants to join it, why not let them?”
In an interview to Ynet Gabbai was emphatic: “The Haredim need to understand that part of the might of our security relies on the support of American Judaism and we can give them a divorce. (He should learn the stat that over 60% of that support is from the orthodox in the states and the reform spends far more supporting anti-Israel NGO’s like J Street and the New Israel Fund which undermine and compromise Israeli security). The religious will go with us if they won’t have a coalition alternative (why is he so sure of that?) so I’m not really worried. They should also know beforehand that in any future negotiation I won’t give in on public transportation on Shabbat. This is a public disservice that needs to be fixed.”
These statements are a sad platform of the new leader of a party whose heyday and relevance to Israeli society are now relegated to history. How sad that the labor party can’t bring itself to be part of the consensus.