Barak could wait to respond to Winograd

Labor leader may wait as long as a week; source close to Barak: "Who said he has to be first to react?"

Barak 224 88 (photo credit: AP [file])
Barak 224 88
(photo credit: AP [file])
The political spotlight will focus on Labor chairman Ehud Barak following retired judge Eliahu Winograd's Jerusalem press conference unveiling his committee's report on the Second Lebanon War on Wednesday evening. The press is eagerly awaiting Barak's reaction to the document and his answer to the question of whether he will honor his commitment to remove Labor from Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's government upon the report's publication. But sources close to Barak said over the weekend that the press would have to wait a while longer. Not only will the Labor leader not give an immediate response to the report, he may wait as long as a week before he says anything about it. Barak is expected to wait to see how the report is interpreted by the press, if any mass waves of protest emerge calling for Olmert's resignation, and the reactions inside Kadima and Labor. Only when Olmert's staying power is clear is Barak expected to issue a statement. "There is no reason to hurry or to jump," a source close to Barak said. "Who said he has to be the first one to react? He won't react until all the other factors have played out." Delaying his reaction to the report is part of Barak's strategy to repair his image, Labor sources said. He wants to differentiate himself from Olmert, who was criticized in the interim report in April for acting too impetuously. But by delaying his response, Barak would break his campaign promise to Labor MK Ophir Paz-Pines to remove the party from the government when Winograd was published, regardless of what it said or how people reacted. "[The Winograd Report] requires personal conclusions," Barak said at the time. "Olmert must seek personal conclusions and resign, as Dan Halutz and Amir Peretz did, each in his own way. If Olmert does not [quit] by the full report's publication, we will have to end our partnership with him and work to establish a new government in the current Knesset, or alternatively, to set a date for elections." Barak continued to hint over the weekend that he intended to remain in the government despite the report, but Barak's associates asked not to read too much into the statements. "I remember what I have said," Barak told The Washington Post in an interview published Saturday. "I will read the report and decide what is best for the country. We have to support stability and the continuity of the government." Barak told The Associated Press in Davos at the World Economic Forum that accountability on his part must be weighed against political stability at a critical time for Israel's security, and for the diplomatic negotiations with the Palestinians. "How exactly to balance between those two elements, that's what I will have to bear in mind when making my decision," he said. Science and Technology, Culture and Sport Minister Ghaleb Majadle (Labor) came out in favor of his party remaining in the government in an interview on Channel 2's Meet the Press program on Saturday. His party colleague, MK Shelly Yacimovich, called for Labor to leave the coalition. "Olmert is corrupt, illegitimate, irresponsible and cynical," Yacimovich said at a cultural event in Beersheba on Saturday. "Labor should quit the government and should not be afraid of elections." Labor activists led by Peace Now director-general Yariv Oppenheimer will host a rally at the party's Tel Aviv headquarters Sunday evening calling for the party to remain in the government due to the diplomatic process with the Palestinians.