Ben-Eliezer threatens to skewer DM's aide

Barak left with no political allies.

By GIL STERN STERN HOFFMAN
July 4, 2010 21:26
2 minute read.
INDUSTRY, TRADE and Labor Minister Binyamin Ben-El

Ben Eliezer 311. (photo credit: Assaf Shila/Israel Sun)

A feud between Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Industry, Trade, and Labor Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer escalated to harsh tones at Labor's ministerial meeting on Sunday when Ben-Eliezer threatened to "skewer" Barak's spokesman.

Ben-Eliezer was upset that after he told Barak about his meeting with Turkish foreign minister Ahmet Davutoglu ahead of his trip last week and the defense minister wished him good luck, Barak's spokesman Barak Seri briefed reporters that his boss opposed the meeting. Ben-Eliezer also suspects that Barak leaked the meeting to Channel 2, a charge Barak and Seri vigorously deny.

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When Ben-Eliezer asked Seri at the meeting whether he told reporters that Barak opposed the meeting, Seri replied affirmatively and said the defense minister thought the meeting played into the hands of the Turks. Ben-Eliezer responded angrily.

"I will never forget this," he told Seri. "You can't do such things to me. You don't know who you are dealing with. I am Iraqi. I will skewer you."

Seri responded defiantly: "You are the last one who would scare me. Tone down. I don't work for you."

Ben-Eliezer's associates said after the fight that his anger was really intended for Barak even if it only came out publicly at his aides. Barak and Ben-Eliezer have also had recent phone conversations in which they let out their emotions.

Relations between the two men, which were close for years, have deteriorated in recent weeks.

The feud between Barak and Ben-Eliezer surfaced recently when Barak named Minister-without-Portfolio Dan Meridor to replace him when he was abroad rather than Ben-Eliezer, and when Ben-Eliezer said he would support Histadrut Labor Federation leader Ofer Eini for the Labor leadership in the next party primary.

Barak's relationship with Eini has also deteriorated, and even Barak's closest political all, Agriculture Minister Shalom Simhon, did not speak to him for several days, because Barak opposed Simhon's decision to seek the chairmanship of the Keren Kayemet L'Israel/Jewish National Fund from outside the ranks of Labor.

The Labor leader has been fighting for a year with Social Welfare Minister Isaac Herzog, who was also once a close ally. He never got along with Minorities Affairs Minister Avishay Braverman, and both Herzog and Braverman intend to run against him for Labor leader, so Barak currently has poor relations with every Labor minister.

Barak also faces opposition in Labor from MK Shelly Yacimovich and rebel MKs Amir Peretz, Eitan Cabel, Daniel Ben-Simon, and Ghaleb Majadleh. The only Labor legislators he currently gets along with are deputy ministers Matan Vilna'i and Orit Noked and new MK Einat Wilf, who recently criticized him on Sky News.

Labor Director-General Weizmann Shiri, a longtime friend of Barak, downplayed his fights with the faction and said the disputes with Ben-Eliezer and Simhon were exaggerated and temporary.

"Simhon and Barak are still close with Barak, and everything in the end will be OK," Shiri said.


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