Ben-Eliezer denies coordinating campaign to oust Barak

Industry, trade and labor minister says he did not plan to attack Labor Party's leadership under Barak with Histadrut chairman Ofer Eini.

By REBECCA ANNA STOIL
November 4, 2010 17:16
3 minute read.
Industry, Trade and Labor Minister Binyamin Ben-El

ben eliezer 311. (photo credit: Eli Neeman)

 
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Industry, Trade and Labor Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer on Thursday strongly denied that his comments the previous day criticizing the current state of the Labor party under the leadership of Defense Minister Ehud Barak were not coordianted ahead of time with Histadrut chairman Ofer Eini.

On Wednesday Ben-Eliezer told Labor party activists at a gathering in Tel Aviv that Barak should be replaced as chairman of the Labor party by an outsider who could "save and rehabilitiate" the party.  On the same day, Eini called Barak "an idiot" for employing an illegal Filipino worker as a housemaid instead of an Israel, say that Barak should serve as a role model to other Israelis and that the Labor party needed "a real leader" at its helm.

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Earlier Thursday, Barak criticized comments made by Ben-Eliezer and Welfare and Social Services Minister Isaac Herzog and other party politicians attacking his leadership.  "There is freedom of speech and then there is freedom to meddle," said Barak. He added, "Our party members love fights and arguments and less so scheming and political subversion."

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Although the official date for the primaries is still distant, potential candidates have already begun overtly jockeying for the leadership position, with Herzog, one of the candidates, calling to advance the primaries to this coming June.

Ben-Eliezer, in an address to some 500 Labor Party activists in Ramat Gan, told the crowd that “the Labor Party needs a brave and new leadership that will return Labor to the forefront of the political stage – a leadership that will prevent the “six-mandate prophecy” and will prove to all the mockers that the party’s path has not come to an end and still has a future.

“The prophecy will not change with the current leadership, no matter who takes center stage,” he said.



Ben-Eliezer emphasized that he does not plan on vying for the leadership, nor is he interested in serving as the party’s temporary chairman.

“I did not come here for honor, for headlines, or for titles. I came to struggle together with all of you over the ideological direction of our party, to return the Labor movement to its past glory in the eyes of the public.”

He emphasized that he does not “support any of the candidates at this time” but said that at the right time “we will know to chose the right leader,” who was likely not to be found among any of the current contenders.

Party activists who support Herzog have reportedly already begun to gather signatures to try to advance the party’s primaries to June 2011, four years after party chairman Ehud Barak took the reins.

Minority Affairs Minister Avishay Braverman also intends to run against Barak, and some believe that MK Shelly Yacimovich may be another likely contender for the chair.

“Friends, the day is not distant on which we will need to make difficult decisions regarding our presence in the government, if the diplomatic processes do not bear fruit,” warned Ben-Eliezer, in a message welcomed by those Labor supporters who still oppose participation in the Likud-run government.

“We still need to give the peace process a chance, but the window of opportunity is closing,” he said.

“Even today, when we are at the most difficult crossroads in the party’s history, some of our elected representatives continue to act in darkness and shadow, knitting together political moves and feeding the press with crumbs of complaints and hatred against the party in which they live and serve,” he lamented.

Even as Ben-Eliezer spoke, Eini, a Labor Party strongman, attacked Barak during a Channel 2 television interview, describing the defense minister as an “idiot” for employing an illegal Filipino laborer while serving as a government minister.

Eini, who was instrumental in negotiating Labor’s entry into current coalition, said that the party needed a “real leader” to rise above its current record low in voter support.

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