Labor rebels stay, but infighting intensifies

Shrunken party split on naming temporary leader; Herzog: "Decision will help rehabilitate party."

Amir Peretz and Labor 4 311 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
Amir Peretz and Labor 4 311
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
The eight remaining members of the Labor faction will convene at the Knesset on Wednesday for their first meeting since Defense Minister Ehud Barak left the party along with four allies and started the new Independence faction.
The remnants of Labor were bolstered by a decision by four wavering Labor MKs on Tuesday to stay in the party – at least temporarily – despite seriously contemplating their departure. But their decision to remain could make it harder for Labor to decide key issues, like who their temporary party chairman and faction chairman will be and how and when to elect both.
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MKs Amir Peretz, Eitan Cabel, Daniel Ben-Simon and Ghaleb Majadle ruled out an idea proposed by outgoing Minority Affairs Minister Avishay Braverman to appoint the party’s elder statesman, outgoing Industry, Trade and Labor Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer, 74, as temporary Labor chairman.
The four MKs prefer not to see anyone appointed to the position. They also want to elect a new Labor secretarygeneral, disband the party’s institutions, and rewrite its constitution.
“The party has endured an earthquake, and that means we have to start rebuilding everything all over again,” Cabel said.
Some Labor MKs spoke on Tuesday about making Labor secretary-general Hilik Bar the party’s temporary leader. Others said they preferred appointing a mayor like Tel Aviv’s Ron Huldai or a respected former minister such as Avraham Shochat, Moshe Shahal or Micha Harish.
Once a temporary chairman is selected, the party will have to decide when to elect a permanent leader.
Outgoing Welfare and Social Services Minister Isaac Herzog, who is running for the job, wants the election held as soon as possible, while other candidates want the race held later.
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Those disputes and others are expected to be fought out in the open at Thursday’s Labor Executive Committee meeting at the party’s headquarters in Kfar Saba. That meeting will be the first attended by Peretz and his allies since a Labor convention decided, over their objections, to enter Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s coalition in 2009.
At a Knesset press conference on Tuesday, Peretz slammed the Labor lawmakers who had accepted portfolios in Netanyahu’s government for “sanctifying coalition discipline above all else.” But he said they needed to be given an opportunity to prove that their penitence was genuine.
“We could have decided to leave today, but we instead decided to give the Labor faction another chance,” Peretz said. “Contrary to incorrect reports, we never negotiated with another party, including Kadima.
We’re the new Labor, and we know what the party has to do to recover.”
Until Monday, Peretz and his three allies were dead set on leaving the party, which would have left it with only four MKs. Ben-Simon was the first to change his mind, followed by Majadle and Cabel. Peretz only relented at the end.
Herzog praised their decision to stay, calling it a “correct and principled move that will help rehabilitate the party.”