Gabbay’s Labour leaps to right


October 21, 2017
Sarah Benton


“The beautiful face of Zionism”- protecting settlements  from the natives. A checkpoint in the Jordan Valley, which “must remain” under Israeli state control; photo on January 2, 2014 by Uri Lenz/Flash90

Labour chief: Settlements represent the ‘beautiful face of Zionism’

Shifting further rightwards, Avi Gabbay lauds settlers’ ‘determination,’ says Israel must retain Jordan Valley, stresses imperative for national unity

By Alexander Fulbright, Times of Israel
October 19, 2017

Labour Party leader Avi Gabbay on Thursday called the settlement enterprise “the beautiful and devoted face of Zionism” and said Israel must retain control over the Jordan Valley in any peace deal with the Palestinians.

“The settlement [project] was and remains the beautiful and devoted face of Zionism,” he said, in quotes carried by Army Radio in a pre-recorded video for an event celebrating 50 years of settlement in the Jordan Valley.

“Over the years, regardless of the party in power, the settlement project demonstrated commitment, determination, and love of the country. You, the settlers, are the pioneers of our generations, people who act in the face of adversity, who cause the wilderness to bloom, who realize the impossible,” he added.


Labour party leader Avi Gabbay leads a Zionist Union faction meeting at the Knesset on July 24, 2017. Photo by Miriam Alster/Flash90

 

 

Gabbay’s remarks marked further dramatic evidence of his shift to the right. They came days after he said in an interview he would not evacuate West Bank settlements as part of a peace deal with the Palestinians, in comments that represented a dramatic break from the historical stance of the dovish Labour party.

In the past week, he has also said he would not have the Joint (Arab) List as a member of any coalition he heads, and indicated he was “unsure” that Israel has a viable partner on the Palestinian side for a peace accord.

His position on ruling out the evacuation of settlements has been condemned by a number of lawmakers from the Zionist Union, an amalgam of Labour and the Hatnua party.

Gabbay’s comments earlier this week were seen by many as further proof of Labour’s rightward shift since he was elected chairman in July as part of a bid to pick up more moderate members of the ruling Likud party and supporters of the centrist Yesh Atid.

On Thursday, Gabbay also said Israel must maintain control over the Jordan Valley as “Israel’s eastern security buffer” under a future peace agreement, echoing a sentiment expressed by previous Labour leaders, most notably Yitzhak Rabin.

“For us, the Jordan Valley was and will remain Israel’s eastern security buffer. And security requires settlement,” he said.

“But the security of the Jewish people in its land requires not only tanks and fences, but also national unity,” added Gabbay. “And this is our duty as public servants, to be moderate and remember in every statement we make that without unity there is no nation, and no state.”

Speaking at the Jordan Valley event later Thursday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the area a “strategic defensive belt” for Israel and said the Jewish state will never relinquish control over it.

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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks at an event marking 50 years of settlement in the Jordan Valley on October 19, 2017, near the Ma’ale Efraim settlement in the West Bank. Photo by Gali Tibbon/AFP

“[The Jordan Valley] has supreme security importance for the State of Israel. The Middle East is unstable and violent. The Jordan Valley is a strategic defensive belt for the state and without it the fundamentalist flood would reach the interior of the country,” said Netanyahu.

“That’s why our eastern line of defence begins in this place. If we are not here, then Tehran and Hamastan will be here. We won’t allow this to happen,” he added. “The Jordan Valley will always be a part of the State of Israel.”

Times of Israel Staff contributed to this report.

 

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