5 Labor MKs may boycott vote on gov't

Barak to convene Labor faction in an effort to reunite the party after the fight over joining the coalition.

barak goes mad 248.88 (photo credit: AP [file])
barak goes mad 248.88
(photo credit: AP [file])
Likud chairman Binyamin Netanyahu cannot count on more than eight of the 13 Labor MKs to vote in favor of his government when it is presented to the Knesset next week. Out of the seven MKs who opposed joining Netanyahu's coalition, only two have decided to abide by the decision of the Labor convention and vote in favor: Avishay Braverman and Daniel Ben-Simon. The other five MKs are leaning toward absenting themselves from the vote or abstaining. The MKs said they would prefer to vote against Netanyahu's government, but Labor bylaws prevent MKs who vote against their party's decision from running with the party for the next Knesset. "I want to respect the convention's decision, but I can't vote for this government and I certainly don't want to join it," said Labor's secretary-general MK Eitan Cabel. Sources close to MK Yuli Tamir denied rumors that she was considering retiring from politics and returning to academia. They said she was very disappointed and that she would only support the government on decisions with which she agreed. None of the seven MKs said they were considering breaking off from the party. One reason that there won't be a split is that MK Ophir Paz-Pines intends to run against Barak for the party leadership and the other Labor rebels are willing to wait patiently until the Labor primary, which according to the party's bylaws, will take place no later than April 2010. Barak will convene the Labor faction on Thursday in an effort to reunite the party after the polarizing fight over joining the coalition. He spoke with some of the Labor rebels on the phone on Wednesday. Sources close to Barak expressed confidence that the rebels would not be able to maintain themselves as a united group that could pressure him or cause real problems for Netanyahu's government. "There is no glue among the seven to keep them together as a group," a Barak associate said. "In the end they are emissaries of the party, which has made a decision that they cannot avoid honoring." Labor received five portfolios in the deal with Likud. Four will go to Barak and current ministers Binyamin Ben-Eliezer, Isaac Herzog and Shalom Simhon. Barak was expected to use Labor's fifth portfolio to try to win over one of the rebels, but none of them had decided as of Wednesday to take the bait. If none of the rebels want the portfolio, it will go deputy defense minister Matan Vilna'i or MK Orit Noked. Vilna'i asked to be appointed a minister-without-portfolio in the Defense Ministry but Barak declined. The fifth minister is supposed to be the government's liaison to minorities, a role that Barak does not want handled from the Defense Ministry. Vilna'i will apparently have to decide whether to accept the portfolio or remain in the Defense Ministry as a deputy minister and allow Noked to become a minister. Vilna'i's spokeswoman said that if he were forced to make such a choice, he would prefer to keep his current job.