Ayalon: Barak's silence is unacceptable

Defeated Labor candidate: '[Barak] has to answer questions about party policies and what happens if Olmert has to quit.'

ami ayalon stern 298 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
ami ayalon stern 298
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
Defeated Labor leadership candidate Ami Ayalon lashed out at the man who beat him, Defense Minister Ehud Barak, warning him in a rally on Sunday night that he cannot get away with continuing his silence. Since he defeated Ayalon in the June 12 Labor leadership runoff race, Barak has continued the strategy he used during the campaign of minimizing public statements and declining to give interviews. Ayalon convened his supporters at Labor's Tel Aviv headquarters on Sunday night to thank them for working on his behalf. "The campaign has ended and the chairman has to say where we are headed," Ayalon told the crowd. "He has to answer questions about the party's diplomatic and socioeconomic policies and what happens if Olmert has to quit after the final Winograd Report comes out. That has to come before we start discussing portfolios, because our partnership has to be based on ideology and not on political deals." Ayalon was referring to reports that Barak intended to offer him the Education portfolio and demote Education Minister Yuli Tamir to Science, Culture and Sport Minister Ghaleb Majadle's portfolio. In such a scenario, Majadle would become a minister-without-portfolio and former Labor leader Amir Peretz would remain outside the cabinet. Addressing the reports, Ayalon spoke directly to Tamir in his speech, saying "Yuli, don't panic. We are not dealing with portfolios." Barak intends to meet with Tamir in upcoming days to discuss her future. His associates said he did not intend to make any moves until Prime Minister Ehud Olmert filled Kadima's vacancies in the Finance and Negev and Galilee Development portfolios. Sources close to Barak said he was trying to find a way to bring either Ayalon or Peretz into the government but was limited by the fact that the only available portfolio at his disposal is the minister-without-portfolio in charge of the Israel Broadcasting Authority that used to be headed by Labor MK Eitan Cabel. Both Ayalon and Peretz have ruled out becoming a minister-without-portfolio. The only two Labor ministers who did not support Barak's candidacy and are therefore expendable are Tamir and Majadle. Peretz is unwilling to enter the cabinet at their expense because they are his political allies, but Ayalon would not have such a problem. When Ayalon ran for Knesset a year and a half ago, he said he was most interested in the Education portfolio. Israel Radio reported that Ayalon told Barak last week that had he won the race, he would have made himself the education minister and given the Defense portfolio to Barak. Ayalon had previously told Tamir that he was not interested in taking away her portfolio. Tamir campaigned for Ayalon in kibbutzim the weekend before the Labor runoff. Sources in Labor said that it would be seen as a political move if Barak replaced Tamir with Ayalon, replacing a professional education minister who is an Oxford-trained professor with a political appointee. The sources said it would be seen as a repeat of Barak's mistakes in his appointments as prime minister, such as appointing Prof. Shlomo Ben-Ami public security minister. "Making Ayalon education minister would make just as much sense as appointing Amir Peretz minister of defense," a Labor official said.