Barak gets approval to proceed with Cabel's removal
But Labor appeals board rules party c'tee cannot be convened for hearing on secretary-general's dismissal before key vote on restructuring party's leadership.
By REBECCA ANNA STOIL
Labor Party Chairman and Defense Minister Ehud Barak finished in a dead heat with his party nemesis Labor Secretary-General Eitan Cabel on Sunday, although Barak did manage to get a critical okay from party leadership to proceed with Cabel's removal.
Cabel's supporters, however, fired back procedurally, with Labor's internal appeals board throwing an obstacle in the party chairman's path.
The Labor Party bureau met Sunday evening, at Barak's behest, to vote on his proposal for the party convention to hold a hearing about Cabel's removal.
Barak's proposal passed despite protests, and Labor rebels raised an eyebrow about what they described as the chairman's heavy-handed methods.
Barak restricted the debate to two speakers - himself and Cabel - although over a dozen members had asked to participate in the debate.
"We can restore the Labor Party to its natural position at the country's helm if we know how to work internally, even if we have disagreements among us," said Barak.
But he then fractured his image of unity by attacking Cabel, saying "there is no precedent in the Labor Party for a secretary-general who does not follow decisions made by party institutions."
Cabel said that should the party vote to remove him, he would not "grab the horns of the altar" and fight the decision.
But that vote may be much further away than the May 10 vote that Barak had hoped for, after the Institution for Clarifying Appeals ruled that it is impossible to assemble the convention for any goal other than the vote on restructuring the party's leadership before that key vote is taken.
Similarly, Barak's attempt at creating a new party official - the director-general - and appointing close associate former MK Weitzman Shiri to the position - also will not be possible until after the convention meets.
"I have no doubt that Barak will respect the decision and will act to carry it out, just as he asked that we respect the convention's decision," responded Cabel.
Barak's supporters have stressed that the central issue is not simply the personality clash between Cabel and Barak, but also the antiquated institutions of the once-seemingly invincible party.
"I oppose two-headed party leadership," said Industry, Trade and Labor Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer. "There is no party in Israel or the world that has a secretary-general. It is hard to do business in a two-headed party."
Cabel's supporters - the Labor rebels who, like Cabel, vocally opposed the party's entering the government - saw Barak's handling of the bureau meeting in an entirely different light.
"It was disgusting," said MK Ophir Paz-Pines. "This was a Bolshevist, dictatorial party in the ugliest possible way.
"I looked at Eitan Cabel and saw that there were two things missing: a rabbi and a last meal. Because that's what a person looks like when they are being taken out to be killed."
MK Amir Peretz poked fun at Barak's election slogan of "not amicable," arguing that it was even truer than previously assumed, and he accused the party chairman of creating "an impossible position in which they don't let anybody speak."
Peretz said that he had seen Paz-Pines and members of the party's Young Guard, who oppose Cabel's removal, attempting to storm the speaker's platform.
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