The efforts of former Labor chairman Ehud Barak to regain control of the party received a boost on Wednesday when he garnered the support of its secretary-general, Eitan Cabel.
"In my opinion he is the best candidate at this time to lead the party and, one day, the country," Cabel told The Jerusalem Post on Wednesday. He said he supported Barak despite the fact that they had not always been on good terms.
"I put it all aside because there are moments that are bigger than you. I have to look at what is right and act according to my conscience," Cabel said.
The last time Labor picked a leader, Cabel voted for Vice Premier Shimon Peres, who lost to Defense Minister Amir Peretz.
On Tuesday night, MK Matan Vilna'i, who has thousands of supporters in the party, said that he too would stand behind Barak in the May 28 primary.
"The nation's security and future can't become a political game," Vilna'i said.
Barak is running against MKs Ami Ayalon, Danny Yatom and Ophir Paz-Pines, as well as the incumbent, Peretz.
Barak and Ayalon are the front-runners, according to polls.
A spokesman for Peretz said he had no comment on the announcements from Cabel and Vilna'i.
Ayalon's office released a statement discounting Barak's growing popularity with the party's leaders. Barak, who was prime minister from 1999 to 2001, has received plugs from Tourism Minister Isaac Herzog, National Infrastructures Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer, Agriculture Minister Shalom Shimhon and MK Orit Noked.
Peretz, too, has a number of party leaders behind him, including Education Minister Yuli Tamir, Science, Technology, Culture and Sport Minister Ghaleb Majadele and Deputy Defense Minister Ephraim Sneh, as well as MKs Shelly Yacimovich, Nadia Hilou and Yoram Marciano.
Ayalon, however, has only managed to get one of the party's 19 lawmakers to rally behind him, MK Avishay Braverman. Ayalon's office said that what was important was that "the public supports Ayalon," adding that he also enjoyed wide support among party members.
The office said Barak was part of the party's "old leadership," under whose watch the it had been discounted by the public, whereas Ayalon represented new leadership that would restore the public trust's in Labor.
Also on Wednesday, rumors circulated that Finance Minister Avraham Hirchson of Kadima might be replaced by Interior Minister Roni Bar-On. Hirchson, under investigation for possible fraud, has insisted he is not leaving his post.
A Kadima spokesman said it was too early to speculate and that there were no plans to replace Hirchson at this time.
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