Among the many recent news updates, polling results and dramatic declarations in Israeli politics this past week, it was impossible to miss two significant events: the retirement of Avi Gabbay from politics in general, and the Labor Party in particular; and the battle that is heating up between Yisrael Beiteinu chairman Avigdor Lieberman and Prime Minister Netanyahu, the Likud party and others.
Had you had asked senior figures in the Israeli economy a decade ago who in their opinion was the most worthy person to lead the country, Gabbay would have always been at the top of their wish list.
His tenure at the head of some of the largest and most successful companies in Israel.
And when he announced that he would join the Kulanu list, everyone rejoiced; he was the obvious leader who would revolutionize the system. But contrary to the high expectations, almost immediately, Gabbay suffered failure after failure. This week, Gabbay officially declared that he will not run again on the Labor list and is, in effect, retiring from Israeli politics.
So where did the most charismatic leader in the Israeli economy go wrong? The answers to that are not simple.
While Gabbay was a CEO, he was accustomed to attentive and motivated employees working for him. Gabbay the politician discovered he had to deal with rivals who were not financially dependent on him and were after his position as leader. The CEO who had salaries and bonuses to distribute to employees at the end of each month had very little to offer his loyal party members while they were in the opposition.
Then there was the competition. As the leader of the huge Bezeq monopoly, Gabbay did not have to compete with others in the workplace. In the Knesset he had to deal not only with 11 competing parties, but also with internal competition. With his resignation, a humiliated Avi Gabbay is a prime example that charisma in business may not transfer to politics.
And what are the implications of this turn of events? It’s too early to tell. But what is certain is that whoever takes on the mantle of Labor’s leadership may completely change the map of the Knesset seats on the left and directly harm Lapid and Gantz’s Blue and White party (whose voters are disappointed by the outcome of the elections, regardless of the changes at Labor).
Blocked by the Blocs
It has become a routine. Every Shabbos, as if deliberately to annoy the chareidi parties, Avigdor Lieberman, the chairman of Yisrael Beiteinu, releases a significant political statement. But recently, as if by mistake, Lieberman’s action served the chareidi parties well. Lieberman wrote on social media, “In the past week, against the backdrop of Netanyahu’s attempts to focus the campaign on who will be the prime minister, I was shocked to see the fierce and shameful competition that developed between Gantz and Netanyahu over who would give in and concede more to the chareidim.
“The Yisrael Beiteinu party, in complete contrast to the Likud, believes that the most important issue that the voter should consider when he goes to the ballot box is what kind of government will be formed: Will it be a halachic government or a nationalist liberal government?