Kadima, Labor battle intensifies as Barak calls for 'struggle'

"The defense minister is just criticizing Kadima to justify his cooperation with the government and find favor with Labor central committee members,"

By GIL STERN STERN HOFFMAN
July 9, 2007 23:37
1 minute read.

The battles between Kadima and Labor over budget cuts and other issues intensified on Monday when MKs in the two parties exchanged barbs in and out of their weekly faction meetings at the Knesset. Labor ministers reportedly angered Olmert on Sunday by voting against a three percent cut in their ministries' budgets. In a speech to the Labor faction, the party's new chairman, Defense Minister Ehud Barak, who is trying to differentiate himself from Olmert, vowed to continue fighting the prime minister on economic issues. "What we did on Sunday was the right thing to do," Barak told the faction. "It's a struggle we will continue. This is only the beginning of our fight for the budget." Labor faction chair Yoram Marciano praised Labor ministers for demonstrating their independence and vowed to intensify the battle. "We have to fight against the government," Marciano said. "We need to be fighting for the principles we campaigned on." Labor MK Ophir Paz-Pines slammed Kadima for a different reason. He accused Kadima ministers of voting for a bill sponsored by United Torah Judaism MK Moshe Gafni last week that would mandate equal funding to the haredi education system as part of "a strategic move set to undermine Labor and the liberal principles it stands for." In a debate over how to handle Darfur refugees in Kadima's faction meeting, Vice Premier Haim Ramon accused Barak of not doing enough as defense minister to secure Israel's border with Egypt. Labor sources said they expected more clashes in the near future between Barak and his longtime nemesis, Ramon, with the illegal outpost issue a likely next confrontation point. "The defense minister is just criticizing Kadima to justify his cooperation with the government and find favor with Labor central committee members," Kadima MK Otniel Schneller said. Sheera Claire Frenkel contributed to this report.


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