barak smile 298 88.
(photo credit: AP [file])
The Labor Party central committee will convene at the Tel Aviv Fairgrounds on Sunday to adopt the proposal of new party chairman Ehud Barak to leave Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's coalition if Olmert does not quit by the final Winograd Report's expected release in September or October.
The central committee decided on May 18 to reconvene three weeks after the June 12 chairmanship election to vote on leaving the coalition. Barak made a commitment during his election campaign to take Labor out of the government in a May 8 speech at Kibbutz Sdot Yam and at a June 6 press conference in which MK Ophir Paz-Pines endorsed Barak.
An official spokesman for Barak said he intended to pass a proposal to leave the government that he drafted with Paz-Pines, to honor his commitments to Paz-Pines and keep his election promise. But he said it was impossible to predict the circumstances in September or October and whether they might obligate Labor to remain in the coalition.
"If he said it, that means he believes in it," the spokesman said. "But two or three months is a long way away and anything can happen between now and then."
Another source close to Barak went further, saying that quitting in September or October would not give him enough time as defense minister to redeem himself in the eyes of the general public and become a credible candidate for prime minister. He said Barak needed more time as defense minister to improve Israel's security and to impress the public.
"Two months definitely isn't enough," the source said. "With all due respect to Ophir, there's a country to run. There's Iran and Sderot and everything going on in the Gaza Strip, and Ehud is the minister of defense."
Paz-Pines said he was sure Barak would honor his commitment to him and quit. He said he persuaded Barak that because Olmert failed in his handing of the Second Lebanon War and his many corruption scandals, he could not possibly continue to run the country.
"No one believed that Barak would say he would leave the government, no one believed he would bring it to the central committee, and now no one believes that the decision will be implemented," Paz-Pines said. But I have no reason to doubt that he will keep his promise."
Paz-Pines said Barak decided not to fill the vacancy left by the departure of minister-without-portfolio Eitan Cabel two months ago, because he decided it was not worth it to appoint a minister who would only serve for two or three months.
The Labor central committee will also vote on approving a new deputy defense minister in place of MK Ephraim Sneh. Barak is expected to select MK Matan Vilna'i for the post.
Olmert has promised to make a decision on how to fill the vacancy at the Finance Ministry and other appointments by Wednesday. The leading candidate is Interior Minister Roni Bar-On, but MK Haim Ramon and Construction and Housing Minister Meir Sheetrit are still being considered.
A Yediot Aharonot poll of more than 70 top business leaders found that their preferred candidate for finance minister was not any of the Kadima candidates, but Likud Chairman Binyamin Netanyahu, who said repeatedly this week that he was not interested in the position and that Olmert did not offer him the job.
The respondents gave Netanyahu 50.7 percent of their support, Sheetrit 22.9%, Ramon 17.9% and Bar-On just 10.5%.