Labor ministers: Obama keeping coalition intact

Defense Minister Barak resists faction’s pressure to issue ultimatum on staying in gov’t based on progress in talks with PA.

October 12, 2010 02:39
2 minute read.
Defense Minister Ehud Barak

Barak sitting Knesset. (photo credit: Sebastian Scheiner/AP)

The Labor Party will remain in Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s coalition for another few months in hopes that US President Barack Obama will pressure the Israeli government to make major concessions to advance the diplomatic process, Labor ministers said Monday.

The Labor ministers hold the key to keeping Netanyahu’s 74-MK coalition together. In a stormy meeting of the Labor faction at the Knesset on Monday, members tried to push Labor chairman Ehud Barak to issue an ultimatum to Netanyahu about leaving the coalition if the diplomatic process was not advanced by a certain time.

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Barak at one point during the meeting mentioned “between four weeks and four months” and even “by the end of December” as possible deadlines.

But he ultimately rejected the ministers’ plea to issue an ultimatum, and his spokesman would only say officially that “during this Knesset session [which runs through the end of March], Labor’s path will be decided.”

Labor ministers pointed fingers at each other during the meeting about who gave Ma’ariv a headline about efforts to topple Barak as Labor leader. The most likely suspects, Welfare and Social Services Minister Isaac Herzog and Minorities Affairs Minister Avishay Braverman, both vigorously denied that they had leaked the report or that they were working to topple Barak.

Braverman said that “everyone knows that when I want to attack, I don’t do it anonymously,” while Herzog said, “I believe we have to act openly.”

Barak’s associates said they believed the headline came from both potential contenders for the Labor leadership.

“We intend to lead an effort to advance the primary [currently set for October 2012] to next year,” the report quoted an anonymous minister as saying. “If we don’t topple him, he will destroy Labor once and for all.”

Both Herzog and Braverman have been very critical of Barak lately.

Braverman compared Barak to a satellite disconnected from the party. Herzog said Barak had to “look at himself in the mirror and ask himself how he led the party from 19 seats to six.”

Advancing the primary would require a complicated maneuver to change Labor’s constitution. But according to the report, the anonymous minister said he believed he was sure he had enough support to do it.

Sources close to Barak mocked the report on Monday, saying that toppling Barak was next to impossible and that the ministers were merely trying to flex their muscles and get headlines.

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