Barak smiles 298.88.
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Political rivals of former prime minister Ehud Barak accused him of greed and immorality on Thursday, intensifying the Labor leadership race ahead of Monday's five-man primary.
Barak's rivals reacted to investigative reports about how he earned his wealth that were published in The Jerusalem Post last week and in Haaretz on Thursday. The latter report found that Barak's company, Ehud Barak Inc., had made at least NIS 30 million since he lost the 2001 election.
The report said he made most of his money in advisory roles in which he was used more as a "decoration" to open doors and use his ties than for his expertise. The report found that he made a large sum for helping Bank Hapoalim owner Shari Arison's husband Ofer Glazer - a convicted sex offender - build a factory in Jordan. It said Barak used his name to help Glazer get a meeting with Jordanian King Abdullah.
"Haaretz and The Jerusalem Post have proven that this man is not qualified to be Labor leader or prime minister," a top source in a rival camp said. "In a time of declining values, he cannot lead a social-democratic party. It's shocking that this greedy and immoral man who has no limits could lead a Western country. I am ashamed that this man was our prime minister."
Barak held a rally for 200 members of his campaign team outside Labor's Tel Aviv headquarters. Although his aides said ahead of the event that he would use the occasion to attack his opponents in the primary, he spoke as if his opponent in the race was Likud chairman Binyamin Netanyahu.
"We are not afraid of general elections," Barak said. "There is no reason to be afraid of Bibi. We have beaten Bibi in the past and we will know how to beat him again when the time comes."
Barak left attacks on his rivals to his confidant, National Infrastructures Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer, who compared Ayalon to present Labor leader Peretz and former leader Amram Mitzna.
"All the candidates are good but the question is who can defeat Binyamin Netanyahu tomorrow," Ben-Eliezer told the crowd. "We need to stop making the Labor Party into an experimental laboratory. We have it in our hands to bring Labor back to power and only Barak can do it."
Barak spoke under a banner with the slogan "Barak will bring back our security." The lawn around the stage was decorated with red, white and blue balloons, which a member of Barak's campaign team said was intended to make it look "American and professional" - more like an event for American presidential candidate Barack Obama than for Ehud Barak.
Protesters from Tel Aviv's downtrodden Hatikva neighborhood where Labor's headquarters in located shouted outside Barak's event, calling upon him to go home to his penthouse.
Meanwhile, incumbent Labor leader Amir Peretz received a boost on Thursday when Labor MK Shelly Yacimovich sent a letter to Labor members telling them that she decided to vote for him "despite his mistakes." Barak had sought Yacimovich's support but she decided to back Peretz because of his socioeconomic policies.
In a speech to Labor activists in the North, Peretz mocked Barak's frequent visits to the US during the campaign, saying that "when Barak is in Ben-Gurion Airport, he doesn't know whether he is coming or going."