Barak may seek to extend his term as leader of Labor

Decision could help preserve stability of Netanyahu gov't.

Ehud Barak 298.88 ap (photo credit: AP [file])
Ehud Barak 298.88 ap
(photo credit: AP [file])
Labor chairman Ehud Barak will decide soon whether his party's next leadership primary should be held by next April or only in February 2012, sources close to Barak said Sunday. According to Labor's constitution, party primaries must be held within 14 months of a loss in general elections. But a loophole was discovered two years ago that would allow the party chairman to extend his tenure until 36 months after an electoral defeat. Extending Barak's tenure would remove the most serious threat to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's government, which would be very unstable if Barak were to be replaced by a Labor figure who removed the party from the coalition. Barak's Labor opponents said he had hinted in a meeting with them on Wednesday that he already decided to hold the primary in 2012. But his associates said he had not decided whether it would be better to hold the primary as soon as possible to take advantage of his current power in the party, or avoid that risk and push to delay the primary as much as he can. Former Labor chairman Amir Peretz, who intends to run against Barak for a third time, called upon him to hold the primary within 14 months to allow internal party disputes to be resolved democratically. Barak's opponents said he had less power among Labor members who would choose the party leader than he did at the Labor convention that approved entering the government on March 24. Peretz and three other Labor MKs boycotted an additional convention on Sunday at which Barak passed several proposals that expanded his powers. Convention delegates gave their okay to Barak's proposal to add several hundred of his loyalists to the body, and for him to temporarily assume the the powers of party secretary-general. The Labor executive committee's secretariat will meet within a week to formally appoint Barak's ally, former MK Weizmann Shiri, as the party's director-general until an election for a new secretary-general takes place within six months. Party activist Danny Cohen intends to run for secretary-general and MK Shelly Yacimovich said she might run as well. Barak attacked MKs Peretz, Ophir Paz-Pines, Yuli Tamir and Eitan Cabel for boycotting the event. He accused them of "paralyzing the party" by rejecting the convention's decision to enter the government. "It is unfortunate that there are members among us who decided not to appear before their constituency and this will be dealt with," Barak said. "We must solve the problems of workers and employees and save jobs from being lost and factories from closing. That's why we are in the government. Anyone who opposed joining the government should close their eyes and think how much worse it would be with a narrow right-wing government." Yacimovich, who opposed joining the government, did not boycott the event. Instead she spoke at the convention and bashed Barak. "I respect the party chairman, but I don't think it's right for him to hold so much power in a democratic movement," Yacimovich said. She criticized her fellow Labor rebels for boycotting the event. But Paz-Pines said he was glad he stayed home. "We didn't come because we knew it would be a farce," Paz-Pines said. "It is unfortunate that we have gotten to the point where I have to boycott meetings in my own party. "We didn't want to be part of Barak's undemocratic show. Labor has been taken over by the dictatorial rule of Barak and it is very sad."