Labor chairman Ehud Barak lashed out at his critics in the party at a pre-Rosh Hashana toast at Labor's new headquarters in Kfar Saba on Wednesday, saying that the party's fall to only 13 Knesset seats was caused by it moving too far to the Left.
Barak personally called upon Labor rebel MKs Ophir Paz-Pines, Eitan Cabel, Amir Peretz and Yuli Tamir to resume cooperation with the party, which they have been boycotting to protest the decision by the party's institutions to join Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's coalition.
But while sending the rebels an olive branch, he also rejected their claims that the party had abandoned its principles by joining a Netanyahu-led government. He said that the prime minister's current efforts to revive the diplomatic process were proof that joining the government was a correct decision.
"When Labor ran the country, it acted in a statesmanlike manner," Barak said. "When it started advocating a utopian [peace] and what had to be done to bring it about, the party shifted leftward and lost power. We need to be a centrist party that supports workers, taxpayers and pensioners."
Barak said it was a difficult decision to join the government, but Labor had made its mark on its socioeconomic, diplomatic and security policies, and that there was no way a narrow right-wing government would have moved the peace process forward.
Hinting at the government's efforts to prevent the nuclearization of Iran, Barak said that key decisions would be made in the near future regarding challenges that the country was facing.
"We are in favor of what is good for the country," he said. "Whenever I am asked why I joined the government, I say we are doing what is right for Israel: Stretching out our hand in peace, enabling the growth of the economy, and helping those in need."
Paz-Pines and Cabel have not given any indication that they intend to end their rebellion against Barak any time soon. Paz-Pines slammed Netanyahu for not agreeing to American and Palestinian demands to freeze West Bank settlement construction.
"The attempts to have their cake and eat it, too, reflect the policies of a government that lacks vision and only cares about political survival," Paz-Pines said.
"Freezing? Cutting back? Building? Economic peace? Regional peace? Peace only in 2016? The public is tired of such political spin. We need a real leader who can make decisions, because our current leadership is ridiculous and weakens Israel."