Avi Gabay, a former environment minister, is elected leader of Israel's Labor party
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                  Avi Gabay, a former environment minister, is elected leader of Israel's Labor party

                  Avi Gabay, a former environment minister, is elected leader of Israel's Labor party

                  11.07.2017, Israel

                  Avi Gabbay, a former environment protection minister, won the race for the leadership of the Labor party which he joined only six months ago.

                  In a runoff election, he beat the former Labor chairman Amir Peretz, a former Defence Minister.

                  Outgoing Labor Chairman Isaac Herzog, who supported Peretz, said he spoke to Gabbay, congratulated him, and told him that he would help him strengthen Labor. He said he also spoke to Peretz and praised him for running an impressive campaign.

                  Gabbay won 52 percent of the vote against 47% for Peretz.

                  Gabbay had an unusual path to become the leader of party, The Times of Israel writes.

                  He joined an elite intelligence unit during his mandatory military service and rose to the rank of major before leaving the army. He later studied economy and business at Hebrew University in Jerusalem. He is married and has three children.

                  His career began in the finance ministry’s prestigious budget department, where he worked for some four years before moving to Bezeq, a major Israeli telecoms company.

                  He eventually rose to become its director general.

                  As a Kulanu minister in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government, Gabbay was not outspoken on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, traditionally a key topic for a contender of the leadership of one of Israel’s largest parties. He resigned from the government in May 2016. He holds centrist positions on the issue, calling for a demilitarized Palestinian state alongside Israel. His vision includes land swaps that would leave the large Israeli settlement blocs in place.

                  Gabbay also notes the importance of improving the economic situation in the Palestinian territories and the need to curb “extremist Islamist elements” there. “The conflict can be resolved,” he wrote, but to do so “we need brave and determined leadership that’s not engaged in spins, incitement and dividing the people”.

                  Meanwhile, according to the latest polls, the centrist Yesh Atid party led by Yair Lapid appears to have wooed most of Labor’s voters, climbing steadily in surveys, and at this point poised to become the top contender against Netanyahu’s Likud party.

                  EJP