Barak delays divisive Labor convention

Rebel MKs threaten to split party over proposed changes to the the party's constitution.

ehud barak 248.88 ap (photo credit: AP [file])
ehud barak 248.88 ap
(photo credit: AP [file])
Ahead of his departure to Washington, Labor Party chairman Ehud Barak decided to postpone a party convention that will decide whether to approve controversial changes he is making in the party constitution. Facing a confrontation in Washington with US President Barrack Obama's administration, Barak decided to delay a confrontation with his opponents in Labor, who are angry about his attempts to wrest power away from party functionaries and members. The convention had been set for June 11, but Barak delayed it to June 24 after even his closest allies in the party said changes had to be made to Barak's draft of the constitution. Even his cabinet colleagues, Social Services Minister Isaac Herzog and Industry, Trade and Labor Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer came out against him. "The changes he wants to make would have passed at the convention but they are way too drastic," a minister close to Barak said. Barak's proposed changes would delay the party's leadership race from April 2010 to as late as 2013, prevent MKs who rebel against the party's decisions from running again with Labor and take the power to select Labor's MKs away from the party members and give it instead to a few dozen top Labor activists. Rebel Labor MKs lashed out at the changes. MK Eitan Cabel said Barak's proposed constitution resembled that of Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chavez. Barak's associates responded that the rebel MKs had "rendered themselves irrelevant." But Labor MK Shelly Yacimovich has hinted that if significant changes in the constitution were not made, she could join four Labor rebels who want to leave Labor and give them the fifth vote necessary to split the faction. "If we can split the faction, our options are unlimited," one of the rebel MKs said. "We could join together with another party, we can form New Labor like Tony Blair did in Britain, or an entirely new social-democratic framework." Upon his return to Washington, Barak will also have to deal with Labor Party employees who are striking to protest the conditions at Beit Berl Teachers College in Kfar Saba, which will soon become Labor's headquarters due to budget cuts in the party. The workers were outraged when they found out that the only two private offices at the new headquarters would go to Barak and a close ally. "When I quit, I told Labor's staff that things would get so bad that they would even miss me," said Cabel, who resigned from his post as party secretary-general last month. "Unfortunately, thanks to Barak, they miss me already."