Barak looks to show Peretz the door

Minister says former chairman should "not get in the way" after the latter challenges faction decision.

peretz barak labor laugh (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
peretz barak labor laugh
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Labor chairman Ehud Barak hinted to his predecessor, MK Amir Peretz, on Monday that he hoped he would not run with Labor in the next election. The two men have been political rivals for years. When Peretz won the race for Labor party leadership, he cast his candidacy as a bid to prevent the election of Barak and his "capitalist" policies. And when Barak defeated Peretz in 2007, he informed him by fax that he was taking away his Defense portfolio. The latest round in the altercation between the two men on Monday started when Peretz announced that he would submit legislation that would set a minimum wage for soldiers. When Labor faction chairman Eitan Cabel told Peretz that the faction opposed the move, Peretz said he would propose the bill anyway. Shortly after that, Barak slammed Peretz - without mentioning him by name - while repeatedly banging on the table in Labor's faction room at the Knesset. "I believe in freedom of thought and freedom of opinion, but when the faction makes a decision, a party that wants to return to power must act in a united fashion," Barak said. "Whoever does not have the esprit de-corps should at least not get in the way. Whoever violates decisions of the faction will be shown the door." The defense minister compared the Labor MKs to soldiers in a tank, warning them not to shoot inside the tank. Barak's spokesman said he was not necessarily referring to Peretz. Sources close to Peretz responded that if Barak continued such behavior, he would soon find that there were no soldiers left behind him. Barak announced on Monday that the faction would convene in closed session next Thursday to begin a process of shaping the party's ideology. The meeting, which was requested by Minister-without-Portfolio Ami Ayalon, is expected to highlight the vast differences of opinion on key issues in the faction. Ayalon will present a list of conditions Labor should give Kadima for remaining in the coalition. MKs Cabel, Ophir Paz-Pines and Shelly Yacimovich intend to bring a list of ways Kadima has violated its commitments to Labor in the coalition agreement. In a further sign of the friction within the party, Barak has tried unsuccessfully for months to find a new faction chairman in place of Cabel, who no longer wants the job. Barak has offered the position to four MKs, all of whom have turned him down. Meanwhile, in Kadima, a dispute within the faction over who should head the party's municipal campaign was resolved on Monday when Olmert announced the appointment of Vice Premier Haim Ramon to the post. Coalition chairman Eli Aflalo had demanded the position. A new dispute erupted in the faction when MK Marina Solodkin complained about the decision by Karmiel Mayor Adi Eldar to fire his deputy, Rena Greenberg. Both Eldar and Greenberg are in Kadima, and the latter was 37th on the party's Knesset list. "Such a respected woman in the immigrant community cannot be fired all of a sudden," Solodkin told Olmert in the faction meeting. Olmert acted surprised by the news and asked Ramon to look into it. But Solodkin, who has a long-standing row with the prime minister, said Olmert was well aware of what had happened in Karmiel and that the move was intended to harm new immigrants. Eldar's spokeswoman said Greenberg was removed from her salaried position, following an interview she gave in which she criticized Eldar and announced her intention to run with a different party in the November municipal election.