Leader of Israel's Labour party stepping down

Jerusalem (AFP) –


Israeli Labour party leader Avi Gabbay has announced he is stepping down after a disappointing finish in April 9 elections and will not run for parliament in new polls in September.

Labour dominated Israeli politics in the decades after the country's 1948 founding, but has struggled in recent years and won only six seats in the 120-seat parliament in April.

Gabbay, 52, is a former businessman and environment minister who became head of the party in 2017.

"I have decided to let my heart and my truth speak... and not be part of the list for the next Knesset (parliament)," Gabbay wrote on his Facebook page late Wednesday.

He said he was unsure what his future plans would be, but he would remain committed to working "for the public".

Gabbay sought to move the traditionally centre-left party further to the centre, but faced criticism for unclear positions on a range of issues.

He was also criticised when it emerged after the April elections that he had engaged in negotiations with right-wing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to potentially join his coalition government.

Netanyahu in the end failed to form a coalition and opted instead to push for new elections, which parliament approved for September 17.