Barak: 'Elections likely by end of this year'

Speech to Labor faction: "This isn't the time for foot-dragging;" follows criticism for staying in gov't.

Barak pshh 224.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski )
Barak pshh 224.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski )
"Elections can certainly be held this year, meaning by the end of 2008," Defense Minister Ehud Barak said Monday. "This is not the time for foot-dragging, this is the time for the correct, purposeful and most reasonable action," Barak told a Labor faction meeting in the Knesset. "The situation can no longer continue. We support a stable regime and we are ready and are preparing for elections. We have joined with other groups who have submitted motions to dissolve the Knesset and several such proposals are ready," he added. Earlier Monday, Barak was lambasted during the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee meeting regarding the investigation of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and the defense minister's as-yet-unfulfilled threat to quit the coalition. "You have described the prime minister as being incapable of performing his duties. Therefore, you bear full responsibility for the country's security," blasted MK Effie Eitam (NRP/NU). "A situation in which the prime minister is not performing his duties does not enable us to deal with Israel's pressing security problems," he continued. "Therefore, you must restore the mandate and quit promptly to allow the public to choose new leadership that will know how to make the necessary security decisions." Barak was also criticized regarding the possibility of a Gaza truce. "It will be interpreted as surrender by Hamas, Arab states, the Israeli public and the entire world," exclaimed MK Yitzhak Ben-Yisrael (Kadima), who demanded an urgent cabinet meeting on the subject. "There are rising concerns that Barak doesn't give appropriate weight to the democratic nature of the State of Israel," he continued. Barak hit back, criticizing the ease with which ministers run to the media. "There were days in which nothing was leaked," he said.