Avraham “Avi” Gabbay (Hebrew: אַבְרָהָם “אָבִי” גַּבַּאי) was born on February 22, 1967, in the Baka neighborhood of Jerusalem, the seventh of eight children born to Moïse and Sara Gabbay, Jewish immigrants from Morocco. His father worked for Bezeq, and in his youth he would also work at his father’s company during his vacations. He studied at the Geulim primary school and attended high school at the Gymnasia Rehavia.
After graduating from high school, he did his national service in the IDF in the Intelligence Corps, reaching the rank of Lieutenant. After leaving the army, he completed a BA in economics and an MBA at the Intelligence Corps..
In 1998, he joined Bezeq as an assistant to CEO Ami Harel. Soon afterward, he was appointed Vice President of Human Resources and, shortly after that, Vice President of Economics and Regulation. In 2003, he was appointed CEO of Bezeq International. In 2007, after Bezeq CEO Yaakov Gelbard was forced to resign, Gabbay was appointed CEO of Bezeq. He served in this position until he left the company in 2013. According to a New York Times profile, “Gabbay led the company through six years of deregulation, privatization and profit, firing a whole layer of managers so gently, according to one account, that they left his office smiling.”
During his 14 years at Bezeq, Gabbay became wealthy and, after leaving the company, unsuccessful tried to buy control of El Al. Before entering politics, Gabbay became the Acting Chairman of the Board of Appleseeds Academy, a non-profit organization that brings technology to underserved communities in Israel.
Gabbay was one of the founders of the Kulanu Party, but failed to win a seat in the 2015 Knesset elections. Nevertheless, he was appointed Minister of Environmental Protection in the Netanyahu government. He resigned in May 2016 to protest the appointment of Avigdor Lieberman as Minister of Defense, who he considered unqualified, and the coalition’s shift to the right.
In December 2016, Gabbay joined the Labor Party and he ran for the leadership, which was unusual for someone who was not in the Knesset. In March 2017, he won and struck a deal with Isaac Herzog, the outgoing party leader, for Gabbay to be given the title of Leader of the Opposition while Herzog retained the title of Leader of the Opposition in the Knesset. Following Herzog’s resignation in July 2018, Tzipi Livni filled the post.
On January 1, 2019, Gabbay unilaterally announced the dissolution of the Zionist Union and the end of Labor’s partnership with Livni’s Hatnuah Party. Shelly Yachimovich was subsequently appointed chairman of the opposition.
In the runup to the 2019 election, Gabbay laid out the party’s platform, which included supporting a two-state solution, providing greater economic security, fighting corruption, ending political incitement, allowing transportation and commerce on Shabbat, and enabling young families to buy apartments at affordable prices.
Although not mentioned in the party platform, Gabbay has said that “undivided Jerusalem” is more important than a political settlement with the Palestinians, with the caveat that he did not include the Arab neighborhoods in the suburbs of Jerusalem. He also said in the past that if negotiations with the Palestinians failed, a unilateral disengagement should be carried out; however, the platform only says only that he wants to “separate the major settlement blocs from the other settlements and outposts, to work to develop the agreed settlement blocs and to stop the investment and funding for isolated settlements and outposts.” He has also expressed support for Reform conversions, civil marriage, and a compromise on rules governing access and prayer at the Western Wall. He opposes drafting ultra-Orthodox Jews for the army.
In January 2019, Gabbay published a memoir, Hakol Efshari (“Everything is Possible”).
Gabbay has run eight marathons and has a tattoo of a runner. He lives in the Tel Baruch neighborhood of Tel Aviv with his wife Ayelet. He has three children.