Labor leader Avi Gabbay faced heckling and whistles from his own party’s activists and sharp criticism from MK Eitan Cabel at Thursday night’s Labor convention at the Tel Aviv Fairgrounds.
While the overwhelming majority supported Gabbay, there was a vocal minority in the jam-packed massive hall who were angry at the single digits Labor is getting in the polls after winning 24 seats in 2015 and at Gabbay’s insistence on reserving slots for his self-selected political allies.
“It is okay that there are those whistling and heckling,” Gabbay said. “They won’t stop us. They will only give some headlines to the newspapers.”
There was much louder booing throughout the hall and even drums for Cabel, who delivered a passionate address to the crowd.
“Those who think I’ll quit: Forget about it,” Cabel shouted at the crowd. “This is my home! I fought for it! No one will throw me from my house and yours!”
Increasing his attack on Gabbay, Cabel said: “We can’t sacrifice the party for one man,” adding: “We can’t be silent when you are killing the only chance for the wonderful people sitting here – who got 24 seats last time – to continue their work.”
Reacting to Gabbay denying on national TV that he had told him privately that he will “collapse the house on all their heads,” Cabel said: “One of us is lying, and it’s not me. I went to a polygraph test to show you who is telling the truth and who is lying – and not for the first time!”
Cabel concluded by telling the audience that “the failure here is completely Gabbay’s,” and vowed “to work hard until this awful period passes.” He was supported by MK Ayelet Nahmias-Verbin, who called what happened in the room “the opposite of democracy” and expressed disgust that Gabbay refused to shake her hand.
Earlier, Gabbay called the party “alive, democratic and kicking” and “a party that people like eulogizing but will surprise big-time.”
He attacked Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid and Israel Resilience Party leader Benny Gantz, whose parties he called “atmosphere parties and smilers.”
MK Amir Peretz, who finished second to Gabbay in the July 2017 Labor leadership race, called him “our candidate for prime minister” and promised “not to give a hand to splits and divides.”
“The public won’t remember what the fight was about but whether we were united or divided,” Peretz said.
The convention passed Gabbay’s proposal to enable him to choose the party’s candidates in the second, tenth and 16th slots.
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