Israel Democratic Party head Ehud Barak apologized for the use of live fire to quash Palestinian protests in 2000 while he was prime minister, which killed 13 Israeli-Arabs and Palestinians.
The apology was a precondition for negotiations with Meretz on a merger for the September 17 election. Talks between the parties progressed following the apology, but Meretz officials said it would still be difficult for the party to accept a deal with Barak unless he succeeds in also bringing along senior Labor figures.
Labor’s convention will vote next Wednesday on party leader Amir Peretz’s proposal to merge with Orly Levy-Abecassis’ Gesher, and add a former senior security official close to Peretz. Meretz officials hope that if the proposal passes, current and former Labor MKs could shift to their party or Barak’s in protest.
One idea is to have Labor MK Stav Shaffir lead a list with Meretz and Barak’s party. More than 6,000 people signed a petition circulated by Barak to have the parties run together.
In his apology on KAN Radio, Barak said: “I bear responsibility for everything that happened, for bad or for good, during my term as prime minister, including the events in which Israeli-Arabs and Palestinian citizens of Gaza were killed in October .” He added that “there is no place in any situation for demonstrators to be killed by the live fire of security forces and the police of the State of Israel, their own country.”
He was referring to violent protests that followed heated exchanges between police and Arab MKs, culminating in then-MK Abdulmalik Dehamshe saying “we will beat or forcefully attack any policeman and break his hands if he comes to demolish an Arab house.”
Barak’s comments came in response to a Haaretz article by Meretz MK Esawi Frej, titled “What Barak needs to say,” in which Frej stressed the need for Barak to take responsibility for the deaths.
Frej called Barak’s apology “an important beginning,” but said he was not prepared to fully accept it.