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(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
Defense Minister and Labor Party head Ehud Barak spent the weekend in Canada participating in the Halifax Security Forum, but his distance from Israel did nothing to calm current party tensions, and in a letter whose contents were released late Saturday night, he accused his in-party detractors of harming the peace process.
“Unfortunately, instead of concentrating our joint efforts on the success of the diplomatic process, as is demanded of us at this time, there are those who choose instead to deal, in these most sensitive days for the process, in petty and internal party politics,” Barak complained. “The shockwaves of those dealings cannot help the efforts to hold diplomatic negotiations. And that is an understatement.”
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He wrote the letter to Labor members on Thursday, two days after a verbal assault was launched against him within the party by Industry, Trade and Commerce Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer and Histadrut Chairman Ofer Eini. Last Tuesday, Eini called Barak an “idiot” for employing an illegal foreign worker as a housekeeper, although both Barak and his wife, Nili Priel, expressed regret for the incident, with Priel offering to pay a monetary fine.
Two weeks ago, Attorney- General Yehuda Weinstein informed Priel that her offer was unacceptable, and while Eini delivered his punches, Ben-Eliezer announced that the time had come to change Labor’s leadership, and that he supported bringing in an external candidate to reinvigorate the party.
In his letter, Barak said he was “no enemy of party members’ personal aspirations, but I see in their attempt to push to the front of the stage, especially at this time, a complete lack of responsibility.” He was aiming his arrows at Welfare Minister Isaac Herzog, who recently launched a campaign to advance internal party elections and replace Barak as party chairman.
“We must put our energy and efforts toward the good of the country – which needs a strong and stable Labor Party, which can show the right direction without internal forces trying to weaken its hands,” Barak continued. “I personally am not afraid or deterred. My calm is aided by my experience with Labor Party Council members and the knowledge that at the moment of truth, the strength of their sense of obligation to the country is stronger than internal political considerations.”
Barak apologized for the letter’s length, but explained that he wanted to “lay out before you the way I see the current situation.” He emphasized that it was the party’s steering committee that decided to join the government, adding that “it had been a difficult decision that involved quite a few risks, but ultimately, the members’ sense of responsibility determined the balance in favor of the national good and sent me and other members to the government as the movement’s faithful representatives in order to stop the extreme right, to realize social policy and to bring about a fruitful and significant diplomatic process.”
Barak promised that Labor would work within the coalition to prevent passage of legislation aimed at providing yeshiva students with stipends, which he described as a “slap in the face” to other students – “left, right, religious and secular, who are from the sectors that bear more than any other the burden of the country’s security.”
In his letter, the Labor chairman also welcomed two incoming senior officials – party director-general Oshi Elmaliach and secretary-general Hilik Bar, depicting a party that under his leadership was on the road to recovery.
“In the past year, the party has gone through a necessary process of
financial recovery without which it would have had no financial or
political future,” Barak wrote. “Now we have the ability to once again
advance the renewed building of the party and its institutions, and I
intend to work on that together with members and the incoming
Barak also urged party loyalists “not to tire or raise hands in
surrender,” saying that the public demanded “leadership that does not
fear making big and brave decisions, even if this requires risks and
bears a personal price.”