Labor chairman Ehud Barak hinted on Friday that he intends to keep Labor in Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's government until the next general elections, breaking promises he made when he was running for Labor leader.
Since Tuesday's Annapolis conference, Barak has been telling confidants that he was impressed by Olmert and the summit and that he saw things differently from Annapolis than he did from the other side of the Atlantic in Kibbutz Sdot Yam, where he vowed to reconsider Labor's place in the government when the final Winograd Report is published.
But his associates said on Saturday night that he would only make a final decision when the report comes out.
In Friday's Labor's faction meeting, Barak referred to the premature departure from the government of his predecessors Amir Peretz and Binyamin Ben-Eliezer. He made clear that he would not give into pressure from MKs Ophir Paz-Pines and Eitan Cabel to remove the party from the coalition.
"There were times when the party left the government too soon and didn't gain anything from it," Barak said. "I won't leave the government just because of the criticism of some MKs. I will leave when I know we will win."
A Dahaf Institute poll published in Friday's Yediot Aharonot found that Labor had lost three seats while Kadima gained three and the Likud gained two. According to the poll, if elections were held now, the Likud would win 29 seats, Labor 22 and Kadima 12.
A Shvakim Panorama poll broadcast the previous Friday on Israel Radio found that if Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni would replace Olmert as Kadima head, Barak's Labor would finish in third place with only 18 seats.
"Barak knows he won't receive public support in the next general election, so he has decided to blatantly break his promise to his voters," the Likud said in response. "This shows Barak's lack of leadership and credibility and that he hasn't changed at all."
Paz-Pines and Cabel also blasted Barak for remaining in the coalition. Cabel told Barak that Labor should "continue the disengagement process from the government."
"The government doesn't have an agenda," Paz-Pines said. "Annapolis is a political step by the government that is only intended to win another year in power."
Peretz, who supports remaining in the government, criticized Barak for not listening to his opponents in the faction.
"You are like a team captain who doesn't want help from the rest of the team," Peretz said. "You just want your yes-men."
Barak responded sarcastically that Peretz could continue to ensure that disputes in the party would go on.
The Labor leader also was criticized on Friday by Meretz leader Yossi Beilin for questioning whether a peace agreement was achievable in 2008 as called for in Annapolis. Beilin said that Barak should act as the head of the "peace camp" and not as a diplomatic commentator.
"I am the head of the peace camp but I am also in charge of security," Barak told the faction. "It could very well be that there won't be peace in 2008, and if there won't be peace, it won't be the fault of the Israeli side. The public is smart and they realize this."
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