Peretz to offer Barak ministry, no place

Barak source: Peretz missing opportunity because of personal reasons.

By SHEERA CLAIRE FRENKEL, JPOST STAFF
January 19, 2006 00:54
4 minute read.
ehud barak visiting jpost

ehud barak jpost298 88aj. (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])

 
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Labor MKs Avraham Shochat and Yuli Tamir were still trying Thursday morning to broker a compromise between Labor chair Amir Peretz and Ehud Barak, to whom Peretz has offered a ministerial position, but not a place on the party list. Army Radio reported sources close to Barak saying that Peretz was hurting the Labor party. "He's missing an opportunity because of personal reasons," the sources said. A poll published Thursday morning gave Labor winning 21 mandates, the first time in weeks that the party had made a showing of more than 20 Knesset seats. The big winner in the Labor primaries, MK Isaac Herzog, promised Wednesday to relinquish his top slot to make room for Barak, but high-ranking party officials were instead negotiating a deal to offer the former prime minister a ministerial post, provided Labor joins the coalition, party officials said. The offer circumvents the numerous Labor Party regulations that prohibit changing the list after the primaries, by offering Barak a post outside the Knesset. On Wednesday night, Peretz also announced that he had no wish to "shake up" the list, but was still eager to see Barak in a leadership position in the next government, although he reportedly refused to promise him the Defense portfolio. "The truth is that they want to make him happy, but they don't want to change the list, which was chosen democratically and which we are very excited about," said one official. "Many people feel that changing the list, especially to put Barak at Boogie's [Herzog's] No. 2 slot would leave a bad taste in the mouth of the voters." For several months Peretz has courted Barak, whose estrangement from the party was considered to reflect badly on Peretz's abilities as a leader. One party official claimed that in a secret poll commissioned to gauge how Barak would affect Labor's showing in the national election, Labor appeared to receive fewer mandates with Barak in its camp. "The truth is that I don't think he is liked by many of the active party members now. It seems strange that the media is pushing him," said the official. "Whenever he is on TV, he seems on the fence, he doesn't seem like a real Labor member. Why push someone like him into the party?" Nonetheless, minutes after arriving at the press conference celebrating his victory, Herzog said that he would, for the good of the party, give his slot to Barak. He stressed, however, that the list elected Tuesday was "the best we could have hoped for." "Where else is there a list, elected democratically by so many supporters, that includes two professors, a doctor and many generals?" asked Herzog. "Now we need to situate ourselves opposite Kadima on diplomatic, security, social and education issues." Herzog, speaking for Peretz before a meeting with the Board of Trustees of AIPAC (America-Israel Public Affairs Committee) alongside Likud leader Binyamin Netanyahu and Shimon Peres, presented a diplomatic and security platform that he said the Labor chairman was currently developing. Herzog's position on the list puts him at the forefront to receive a ministerial position in the next government. Although he joked about becoming foreign minister, he said he would be interested in working with any ministry that put him "in touch with the people." Following Herzog on the list was MK Ophir Pines-Paz, Avishay Braverman, MK Yuli Tamir, and Ami Ayalon. Although Tamir received fewer votes than Ayalon, the fifth slot was reserved for a woman. The following slot was reserved for party secretary-general Eitan Cabel, pushing Binyamin Ben-Eliezer to the eighth slot. Shelly Yacimovich took the ninth slot, also reserved for a woman, Michael Melchior took the 10th slot that had been reserved for him, and MK Matan Vilna'i was pushed to the 11th spot, although by popular vote he would have finished eighth. Next on the list were MKs Colette Avital, Ephraim Sneh and Danny Yatom, with Nadia Hilou in the 15th spot, also reserved for a woman. Shalom Simhon was chosen to represent moshavim, Orit Noked kibbutzim, Yoram Marciano neighborhoods, Raleb Majadele the Arab sector and, in the 20th slot, Shakeef Shanan beat out projected winner Salah Tarif to represent the Druse. "Standing here are the best people in all fields, on all issues. There is no issue for which we do not have an unequivocal answer," Peretz said after the winners were presented. "There are people here who can deal with security better than anyone." Peretz, who has been criticized for not speaking about defense and security issues, added that above all the party would continue to focus on the "personal security" of Israeli citizens. Prior to the vote, the party seemed mired in allegations of a "hit list" being negotiated between Peretz and Ben-Eliezer. Leading up to the vote, they were accused of conducting back room deals to promote a shared list of "preferred" candidates at the expense of veteran party members. On Wednesday, however, officials scoffed at the rumors, pointing out that MKs the list was said to target, including Danny Yatom and Ephraim Sneh, ultimately received realistic slots. Two close associates of Barak, however, Orna Angel and Alon Pinkas, failed to secure realistic slots. Labor has vacillated in the polls, last week receiving an all-time of low of 14 mandates for the next Knesset. Peretz had promised that after the primaries, Labor would have a better showing. Despite the poor weather and Labor's recent drop in the polls, 58.4 percent of the party's 116, 948 members voted - 68,331 voters. "I think it reflects well on us that despite the downward trend in the polls, we had such a high turnout rate," said a spokeswoman.

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