Barak blamed for Annapolis inertia

Ayalon: "We in Labor fell asleep ahead of summit... Lieberman had more influence than he should."

ayalon the loser 298.88 (photo credit: AP)
ayalon the loser 298.88
(photo credit: AP)
Defense Minister Ehud Barak's adversaries in the Labor Party blamed him on Sunday for not doing enough to make next week's Annapolis peace conference a success. Speaking at a Labor central committee meeting at the Tel Aviv Fairgrounds, Minister-without-Portfolio Ami Ayalon and MKs Ephraim Sneh, Amir Peretz and Ophir Paz-Pines took turns bashing Barak and accusing him of allowing Israel Beiteinu chairman Avigdor Lieberman to dictate the terms of the summit. Before the bashing began, Barak opened the event by saying that he prayed the summit would succeed and that Israel and the Palestinians would reach an agreement on the core issues of the conflict within a year. He also used his speech to call for an end to the teachers' strike and to defend the Supreme Court from recent attacks. Ayalon did not mention Barak by name, but he accused him of not making his presence felt in the peace process. He noted that the core issues were not on the agenda of Annapolis and suggested that had Labor insisted, they would have been. "We in Labor fell asleep ahead of Annapolis," Ayalon said. "We didn't do what we had to do to prevent the influence of Lieberman and Shas and now it's too late. We abandoned the playing field to the Right. "Lieberman had much more influence than he should have had. Had we presented a clear stance over the last few months, this would not have happened." Sneh, who initiated the meeting to protest Labor's lack of an agenda under Barak's leadership, said that if Annapolis would be "empty and tasteless," Labor had no reason to remain in the government. Sneh presented a proposal for the committee's approval that would endorse Annapolis but warned that Labor would not remain in a government that would not advance the peace process. Barak sent his ally, former MK Moshe Shahal, to submit an alternative proposal similar to Sneh's, but without the warning. Sneh protested, saying that he submitted his proposal a week ago and Shahal approached him half an hour before the meeting with his draft. Sneh said that he acted toward Barak's allies "with transparency and fairness and they responded by cheating." Labor Secretary-General Eitan Cabel ended the meeting without a vote, because most of the crowd had left after he let five unknown people speak. "The reason there was no vote was that my opinion had a majority," Sneh said. "The result is that Labor, a week before Annapolis, has no opinion." Paz-Pines said that the proposals of Sneh and Shahal were "trying to revive the dead." He said that Lieberman had already emptied Annapolis of all content. "Ehud, you are going to the US to drink American coffee, but the coffee in Tel Aviv is better," Paz-Pines said. "Annapolis won't accomplish anything. It's a big farce. Olmert is just trying to survive the investigations and Winograd." Peretz accused Barak of "speaking in empty slogans." He said that Labor should have instead cheered on Olmert for taking steps like abandoning Israel's insistence on the Palestinians stopping terror before embarking on final-status talks. "I don't think there's a party that gave its chairman so much time and leeway on the diplomatic issue," Peretz said. "Who would have thought that 10 days before Annapolis, our opinion would be so unclear?"