Barak: Labor would win with Peres

Labor officials question Barak's allegiance to the party; Labor members begin jockeying for cabinet positions.

ehud barak face298 88 aj (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
ehud barak face298 88 aj
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
Labor would have won the national elections had Shimon Peres been elected chairman and led the party, Ehud Barak claimed Sunday night. Barak, who has openly clashed with Labor chairman Amir Peretz since the party's primaries in December, recently returned to the party after a long hiatus abroad. Although many had criticized Peretz for not keeping Peres in the party, Barak's participation in the campaign had become increasingly controversial after senior Labor officials questioned his allegiance to the party. "Why do we need Barak," said one high-ranking Labor member. "He's with us, he's not; he helps us, he hurts us. Who needs this?" Barak loyalist MK Shalom Simhon, however, said that Barak's renewed participation in the party was a sign of hope. Tempers, meanwhile, flared Sunday over Labor candidate and former Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) chief Ami Ayalon's statement that he had killed many Arabs. "I killed many Arabs, probably more than Hamas fighters killed Jews, and more than anybody else, but all in order to secure Israeli lives," he told the British newspaper The Sunday Times. Meretz MK Zehava Gal-On called the comments "distressing" and "worrying," while a Likud spokesman dismissed Ayalon as "not relevant." Ayalon criticized the article Sunday by claiming that his statements were taken out of context and made to sound as though he was boasting. The dovish candidate has spoken openly about his past, which Labor chairman Amir Peretz has touted as the "strongest defense portfolio of all the candidates." Meanwhile the incident also renewed debate at Labor Party headquarters over the issue of ministerial posts. Although Peretz has refused to comment on whom he would name as ministers in the next government, a party official said that the jockeying for positions had already begun. Peretz would assume the right to assign the posts only if he won the election, which seems unlikely due to Labor's poor showing in the polls. If Peretz loses, internal Labor laws dictate that the party's central committee would choose the candidates to receive ministerial posts. "It seems likely that it will be the central committee handing out the posts," said one high-ranking Labor candidate. "They have their own interest and what they are promoting. It might be surprising whom they choose."