Barak loyalist calls for clean divorce with rebels

Barak loyalist calls for

shalom simhon 248 88 aj (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
shalom simhon 248 88 aj
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
Labor chairman Ehud Barak continued to threaten his party's four rebel MKs on Sunday even as the minister closest to him began to signal that they should be allowed to leave Labor on good terms. Barak is facing an ultimatum by Labor MK Daniel Ben-Simon to split the party in two or three months if action is not taken to reunify Labor and to advance the Middle East peace process. Barak has not signaled any willingness to surrender in the dispute. "The matter will be solved soon because we cannot let it go on much later," Barak told top kibbutz movement activists in his Tel Aviv office on Sunday night. "I am still telling them [the rebels] that they have to accept the decision of the party convention [to join the government] or they will have to face consequences." Earlier, the rebel MKs expressed hope that Barak had started to crack and would allow them to leave Labor despite not yet having the support of the fifth MK needed to legally split the party and receive public funding. They said a good sign of this was remarks made by Barak's ally, Agriculture Minister Shalom Simhon. "We need to reach understandings with the four [rebel MKs] about whether we are staying together or letting them leave peacefully," Simhon told reporters outside Sunday's cabinet meeting. "If we cannot continue together, there is no reason for a messy divorce when we can have an amicable breakup." Rebel MK Eitan Cabel praised Simhon and agreed with him, saying: "If we do have to separate, it's better that it be done respectfully and directly and not with lawyers." A spokesman for the rebels said Barak was under "crazy pressure," due to the rebellion. The spokesman said it helped that Barak was also weakened politically by the state comptroller's report about his exorbitant expenses on a recent trip to Paris and by the boos he received when he spoke at a rally for slain prime minister Yitzhak Rabin 10 days ago. Barak has reportedly asked legal advisers how to prevent the rebels from taking away the Labor name and overthrowing him if they obtained a majority in the faction. United Kibbutz Movement head Ze'ev Shore said Barak should do everything possible to keep the rebel MKs in the party and prevent Labor from splitting.