Barak cabinet 298.88.
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Senior Labor officials came out with conflicting positions over the weekend on whether the party should remain in the coalition, amid increased speculation over how Labor Chairman Ehud Barak will handle the release of the final Winograd Report on the Second Lebanon War on January 30.
Kibbutz Movement Secretary-General Ze'ev Shor, who also heads Labor's kibbutz sector, sent Barak a letter over the weekend urging him to keep the party in the coalition.
Barak previously promised to take Labor out of the government when the final report was released.
"Despite the expected severity of the report, I am turning to you and asking you not to quit the government at this point in time," wrote Shor. He added that Labor needed to stay in the government to ensure that the diplomatic process moved forward.
"Your continued presence in the government is of the utmost importance for the State of Israel, first and foremost to advance the peace process and the Palestinian talks, and, perhaps in the not-too-distant future, the Syrian talks," Shor wrote. "The Labor Party [should also] correct the mishaps that the members of the Winograd Committee will note [in their report]."
The Kibbutz Movement is Labor's largest single constituency. Barak was elected party chairman in June largely due to the movement's support.
Other Labor members, including many from southern periphery towns who became more active in the party during Amir Peretz's chairmanship, advocate leaving the coalition.
"We will not forget Barak's promises to leave the coalition. We will press him to leave the government. It is the only right step for our party to take to show the families of fallen soldiers that we can take responsibility and act when others don't," a Labor central committee member from Kiryat Malachi said during Monday's faction meeting.
As the senior partner in Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's coalition, Labor holds the key to toppling the government and forcing an early election.
Israel Beiteinu's resignation from the government last week left Olmert with a coalition of 67 out of 120 Knesset members.
Recent statements by Shas's spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef indicate that Shas is not likely to leave the coalition over the Winograd Report.
Barak has said recently that he will wait until the final report is published before deciding whether to pull the faction's 19 MKs out of the government.
If the Labor Party calls for Olmert's resignation and he refuses to step down the party could set a date for early elections by the end of 2008, MKs said last week.
The Winograd Committee's interim report, published last April, was extremely critical of the government's actions during the first six days of the war. Olmert, former defense minister Amir Peretz and former IDF chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. (res.) Dan Halutz all came under fire.
Sources close to the Winograd Committee said the final report was likely be more critical of the IDF than of political figures.